WASHINGTON – Leading Democrats sharply criticized a former CIA chief on Monday for suggesting that a disputed torture report produced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Senate panel was motivated by her "emotional feeling" and not by a desire for objectivity.
Michael Hayden, who was President George W. Bush's CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said on Fox News over the weekend that the motivation behind the still-classified, 6,300-page investigation "may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don't think it leads you to an objective report."
On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Hayden's comments condescending and claimed they were representative of a broader Republican hostility for women.
"Does this sound like a person or party that respects women?" Reid said. Of Feinstein, he said: "She has been fearless. She has been thorough and fair... She's being too emotional? I don't think so."
Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat who serves alongside Feinstein on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the reference to Feinstein's emotions a "baseless smear" that Hayden wouldn't make against a man.
Feinstein and other committee members voted 11-3 last week to declassify about 500 pages of the report. The CIA is reviewing those sections. The process coincides with a bitter, related dispute between Feinstein's committee and the agency over dueling allegations of illegal snooping and competing criminal referrals.
Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement that declassifying the review of CIA's detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks "would ensure nothing like it happens again." She called Hayden's reference to her emotions "nonsense."
"The report itself is objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits," Feinstein said.
Hayden could not be reached for comment. An assistant at the Chertoff Group, a consultancy founded by Bush's former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said Hayden was out of town and in meetings all day.
In an interview last month with The Associated Press, Hayden said "personalities really matter" when it comes to the Senate committee's rift with the CIA.
Regarding Feinstein, he said, "When she gets an idea in her head, she's very focused" — in much the same manner as current CIA Director John Brennan. Hayden said Feinstein's report, however, was "designed to discredit the (interrogation) program and those who said this provided useful information."
The report was produced exclusively by Democratic staffers. It concludes among other things that waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the document, who have spoken on condition of anonymity because the report is still classified.
And the report is also said to accuse the agency of misleading Bush and Congress about the successes of the program. The CIA disputes many of the findings.
Udall, D-Colo., also defended the merits of the committee's investigation.
The "study is based on an exhaustive and years-long review of millions of internal CIA and other records," he said. "The fact that former Director Hayden questions the objectivity of the committee's study at the same time that he freely admits that he hasn't read it demonstrates particular gall, in my view."
Udall said declassification would ensure a "long overdue public debate" that sets the record straight.
Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.