Gen. Hayden will clarify world events at Speaker Series event in Steubenville on Thursday

SWORN IN — President George W. Bush shakes hands with Gen. Michael V. Hayden after Hayden was sworn in as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA Headquarters on May 31, 2006, in Langley, Va. Also on stage were John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, and Jeanine Hayden, Hayden’s wife.
 -- Associated Press

SWORN IN — President George W. Bush shakes hands with Gen. Michael V. Hayden after Hayden was sworn in as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA Headquarters on May 31, 2006, in Langley, Va. Also on stage were John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, and Jeanine Hayden, Hayden’s wife. -- Associated Press

STEUBENVILLE — If you are looking for a way to make sense out of current events, you should plan to be on hand Thursday at Catholic Central High School when the Trinity Health System Presents the Herald-Star Speaker Series continues.

The speaker will be retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the National Security and Central Intelligence agencies. During his presentation, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., he’ll offer his insights into the nation’s role in the world.

“I’ll discuss the tectonic shifts, the fundamental changes in the world’s situation that make us understand what we see on the evening news,” Hayden said during a telephone interview last week.

A Pittsburgh native, Hayden’s career spanned more than 40 years since he earned his commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Pittsburgh. Along the way, he was appointed as head of the NSA by President Bill Clinton in 1999, a post he held until becoming the principal deputy director of national intelligence in 2005 during the administration of President George W. Bush. That appointment to serve under John Negroponte earned Hayden his fourth star.

In 2006, Bush appointed Hayden to lead the CIA, a post he held until Leon Panetta was confirmed as President Barack Obama’s choice to take over the agency in 2009.

Hayden has stayed busy in retirement. He is a principal in the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He is a distinguished visiting professor at the George Mason University School of Policy, Government and International Affairs and co-chair of the electronic grid cybersecurity initiative of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

He’s not afraid to share his opinions.

When asked, for example, about charges that Susan Rice, the former national security adviser, might have committed a crime by unmasking the names of Trump associates who were part of an incidental data collection, Hayden is blunt, saying there is no smoking gun, and adding, “Based on what I know, it’s boring.”

He shares the details of his life and career in the book “Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.” In that book, which spent a great deal of 2016 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, Hayden offers insight into the current problem the world faces in Syria. While writing about a suspected nuclear reactor that was discovered in Syria in 2007, Hayden said President Bashar Assad “was never meant for this job. His older brother, Bassel, had been the heir apparent to Hafez (Assad), the ruthless but savvy father …”

“(Bassel) had a military background, headed up the Presidential Guard and seems to have been highly regarded. He also had a love of fast cars, and that proved to be his undoing, as he died in 1994 racing at 80 miles an hour on a foggy night to the airport.”

Hayden writes that the Assads reminded him of the Corleones from Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather:”

“… Like the Corleones, whose obvious heir, Sonny, was killed, the Assads unexpectedly lost their chosen, Bassel, as well. Don Corleone had the good fortune to have the far more talented Michael to fall back on. In many ways, Hafez had to settle for Fredo.”

The situation in Syria became even more tense earlier this month when a deadly chemical attack was launched on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria. The U.S. responded to that attack, which has been blamed on the Assad government, with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles which destroyed 20 airplanes and damaged the Hayrat air base, where it is believed the chemical attack was launched from.

Past series speakers have include former Secret Service agent Clint Hill and his co-author, Lisa McCubbin; former CIA agent Antonio Mendez, who masterminded the escape of Americans from Iran in 1980 –a story that was dramatized in the film “Argo” — and his wife and former CIA agent Jonna Mendez; Capt. Richard Phillips, who was held captive by Somali pirates; retired Air Force Col. Mark Tillman, who piloted Air Force One; Rebekah Gregory, a survivor the Boson Marathon attacks; Mark “Oz” Geist, a member of the annex security team that was involved in the Battle of Benghazi; and legal expert and political commentator Jeanine Pirro.

Joining Trinity and the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times to sponsor Thursday’s presentation are Franciscan University of Steubenville, Eastern Gateway Community College, Cattrell Cos. Inc., EZtoUse.com, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and WTRF-TV.

Reserved seat tickets are $20 each and are available by visiting heraldstaronline.com; at the Herald-Star office, 401 Herald Square; or by contacting Diana Brown at (740) 283-4711 during regular business hours. All tickets will cost $25 if purchased at the auditorium the night of the presentation.

Copies of “Playing to the Edge” are available for purchase for $25 at the Herald-Star. Attendees who have books will have the opportunity to have them signed after the presentation.

VIP ticket packages are available at a cost of $150 for two tickets and $100 for a single ticket. The package includes admission to a private reception with Hayden that will run from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at Catholic Central High School; hors d’oeuvres and beverages; the opportunity to meet Hayden and have a photograph taken with him; a copy of “Playing to the Edge”; a pass for reserved parking at the high school; and special seating for the presentation. Contact Cindy Kotsch at (740) 283-4711 for information.

A preferred seating option priced at $50 per ticket is available. The package includes a paperback copy of “Playing to the Edge,” special seating and the opportunity to be among the first people to meet Hayden after the presentation. Contact Kotsch for details.

Area students will be able to attend the presentation at no charge, thanks to the Cattrell sponsorship. School administrators throughout the region have been contacted with the details about how students can obtain tickets.

For information, check with school officials or contact Brown at the Herald-Star at (740) 283-4711.

Providing special support for the presentation are the Best Western Plus University Inn at Franciscan Square, Piergallini Catering, Catholic Central High School, Newbrough Photo and Hertz-Thrifty Car Rental.

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