The former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency Michael Hayden criticized President Donald Trump after the president attacked retired Admiral Bill McRaven, the former head of United States Special Forces and the man in command when U.S. Navy SEALs eliminated Osama bin Laden.
Hayden slammed the president's own counter-terror failures.
"How you doing on Zawahiri, Mr. President?" he wrote, a reference to Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda.
“Bill McRaven is a naval officer and an American hero. Like the ones that gave all at Belleau Woods. You remember them, right?” he added, referring to the American troops who died at the Battle of Belleau Wood during World War I. (Trump was criticized for failing to attend a commemoration ceremony for the soldiers during his visit to France last week.)
Hayden is not well liked by the Trump administration; he has, in the past, referred to Trump as "disdainful” and “contemptuous.” Earlier this year, the White House included him on a list of individuals who would possibly have their security clearances revoked.
"Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time. "Any access granted to our nation’s secrets should be in furtherance of national, not personal, interests. For this reason, I’ve also begun to review the more general question of the access to classified information by government officials."
Admiral McRaven had criticized Trump after the president dismissed him as a "Hillary Clinton fan" and an "Obama-backer" in a Fox News interview with host Chris Wallace.
Wallace had brought up comments McRaven had made in 2017 about Trump's repeated attacks on the press, calling them "perhaps the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime."
"He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer. And frankly, wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?" Trump said.
"I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else," McRaven said in a statement to CNN on Sunday in response to Trump's comments. "I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for."
Saying that he admires all presidents, "regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the Nation together in challenging times," he added:
"I stand by my comment that the President's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. When you undermine the people's right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands."
McRaven criticized the president earlier this year after he announced that the White House would revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan.
"I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency," he wrote in a letter published in The Washington Post.
The president has not walked back his comments. Earlier today, he suggested that the U.S. "should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did."
Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking service, rated the president's claim that he warned of the danger Bin Laden posed before 9/11 "mostly false."
"He did not call on the U.S. to target the terrorist leader individually, or to wage a unilateral war against his [Al-Qaeda] terror network," Politifact said.