Ex-CIA chief explains Nazi tweet on family separations

Hayden: 'We need to be careful'

By ELI WATKINS, CNN
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Michael Hayden

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Monday that his tweet invoking a Nazi concentration camp to criticize the separation of families at the U.S. border was a warning of where the country could be headed.

"I was trying to point out we need be careful not to move in that direction," Hayden, a CNN national security analyst, told CNN's John Berman on "New Day."

Over the weekend, Hayden tweeted out a photo of the Birkenau death camp at Auschwitz, writing, "Other governments have separated mothers and children."

Hayden was one of several prominent voices to express outrage with the administration's policies that are resulting in the government separating thousands of migrant children from their families. But his decision to compare the brutality of a Nazi concentration camp and killing center to the Trump administration's approach to immigration drew particular attention.

Hayden said Monday that his decision to use the photo was an attempt to reflect how Germany went from a democratic society to a nation that perpetuated the Holocaust.

"Let's run the clock back to 1933, which is really what I was trying to address," Hayden said. "And in 1933, what did we see in Germany? A cult of personality, a cult of nationalism, a cult of grievance, a press operation that looked like and was the ministry of propaganda and then the punishing of marginalized groups."

Hayden said the "needle" of the United States was nowhere near the reality of Nazi Germany, but that the nation was moving in the wrong direction.

"If I overachieved by comparing it to Birkenau, I apologize to anyone who may have felt offended," Hayden said.

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