It may be difficult to ever determine what happened to the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that has been missing for nearly a week, retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said.
"Right now all we have are data points and then we've got some hypotheses," Hayden, who directed both the National Security Agency and the CIA, told Newsmax TV's John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Friday. "What you do is line up your hypothesis and take your data points and find out how many of the data points are consistent with each of the hypotheses.
"You patiently, painstakingly, work your way through the different options until you come up with a hypothesis that is more rather than less likely," he said.
Hayden, a retired four-star general, then referenced a quote from his No. 2 at the NSA, John McLaughlin: "Some things in life are secrets, other things are mysteries."
"A secret is something that you can steal," Hayden explained. "And that's the work of intelligence. This one may end up just being a mystery. We may actually have to face the reality that we're never going to get the certitude about this."
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Hayden directed the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and the CIA from 2006 to 2009. He currently is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
He told Newsmax TV that the ongoing fight between the CIA and the Senate over accusations that the agency hacked the panel's computers and removed documents about a controversial interrogation program is causing damage to both sides.
"What's happened in the last week has just gone beyond the pale and has gotten far too emotional, far too intemperate," he said. "It hurts oversight, it hurts the smooth functioning of the CIA, and it hurts America.
"Everyone needs to step back a little bit here, take a breath, maybe take the weekend off, and then come back at this on Monday and just go through the charges and counter-charges."
"Look, you got the Senate saying, 'You spied on me.' You've got the CIA saying, 'You got documents we didn't give you.' OK, well, let's work our way through this," he added.
"In the backdrop, this might actually be less about the CIA checking computer logs and how much they told the Congress about that and more about the heart of the issue, which is the report on the interrogation program," Hayden said, referring to America's detention and interrogation of terror suspects after 9/11.
"It's the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but in truth, it's the report of the Democratic staff and the contractors they hired," he added.
And the CIA does not believe the report is accurate, according to Hayden. "The agency isn't pushing back because the interrogation program should be secret from Congress or too sensitive for Congress or if Congress knew about it, it would be embarrassing," he said.
"The heart of the issue for the agency is that this report that has been drawn up, in the view of the agency, is just wrong — and the agency doesn't quite know what to do about that, since Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [California Democrat] wants to make this report public.
"The agency's great fear is this will, by default, become the accepted, definitive, historical record — and the agency just thinks the report has great, serious errors in it."
Turning to the issue of China's spying on the U.S., Hayden, said he was greatly concerned about it.
"It is on a massive scale. I don't think we would call it incredibly sophisticated. It's not bad. I'm not saying it's primitive — but its great strength is not its elegance. Its great strength is its mass.
"As a professional intelligence officer, I just stand back in awe at the breadth, depth, and persistence of the Chinese espionage effort against the United States of America. It is truly a thing to behold," he said.
"When they're going after non-defense firms and trying to steal the designs of this particular bus or that particular pleasure craft or something, that's an unfair fight," Hayden added. "That's the Chinese state, a powerful nation state, going after small to mid-size American industries.
"China going after American defense secrets is frankly an accepted international practice. If the Chinese are successful in doing that, it's far less shame on them and more shame on us."
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misinterpreted comments by retired Gen. Michael Hayden related to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Newsmax regrets the error.
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