The Hot Button | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


The Hot Button



The issue: Park Place resident Greg Barnhisel is petitioning Pittsburgh City Council to remove a nameplate honoring Pittsburgh native Gen. Michael V. Hayden. Hayden headed up the National Security Agency for six years before becoming the head of the CIA under President George W. Bush. In 2008, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl ceremonially renamed a street that borders Heinz Field "Gen. Michael V. Hayden Boulevard." Barnhisel takes exception to honoring Bush's intelligence guru.

The case for leaving the sign up: Hayden grew up on the North Side and went to North Catholic High School and then Duquesne University. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1969, and became a general in 2005. He's won the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star and other commendations. He was our country's top intelligence officer. Not too shabby for a welder's son. 

The case for taking it down: As NSA director, Hayden carried out an unprecedented domestic wiretapping program. Civilian phone and computer lines were tapped without warrants -- supposedly to protect us from terror groups. At his confirmation hearings as CIA director, Hayden said of the program: "I could not not do this." During his tenure at the CIA, terror suspects were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques. In a 2009 interview with Fox News, Hayden said those techniques "made us safer." Barnhisel says a man engaged in such activities should not be honored with a plaque. "I was horrified to learn that the city had done this," says Barnhisel. "This is one of the worst enablers of the Bush administration's civil-liberties violations." While Barnhisel commends Hayden's military service, he says the city should honor only "those with accomplishments we can all admire."

How you can sound off: A public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. Mon., March 1, in council chambers at the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown. To register as a speaker, call the city clerk's office at 412-255-2138. You can also call the mayor's office at 412-255-2626.

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