Lawmakers Concerned About Hayden Leading CIA

Gen. Michael Hayden at a hearing before the Senate i i

Gen. Michael Hayden listens to statements during a hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 2, 2006 in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
Gen. Michael Hayden at a hearing before the Senate

Gen. Michael Hayden listens to statements during a hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 2, 2006 in Washington, D.C.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are expressing reservations about the prospect of Gen. Michael Hayden heading the CIA. Several members of Congress say the CIA should be led by a civilian.

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HOWARD BERKES, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Howard Berkes. Debbie Elliot is on assignment. This evening, political watchers in Washington are waiting for President Bush to name a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The new nominee would replace Porter Goss, who resigned, reportedly under pressure, on Friday. Tomorrow, the President is expected to name Air Force General Michael Hayden to the post. But some powerful lawmakers from both parties say a military man would be the wrong choice to run a civilian agency. NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES reporting:

General Hayden's expected nomination was a hot topic on all of the talk shows this morning. As were concerns over whether his appointment would exacerbate existing tensions between the CIA and the Department of Defense. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told NBC's Meet the Press that the intelligence community is in disarray.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): There's a power struggle going on between the Department of Defense and the entire rest of the intelligence community, so I don't see how you have a four star general heading up the CIA.

KEYES: The Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, agrees with his Democratic colleague. He says, putting a military person in charge of the CIA will bring about the wrong debate.

Representative PETER HOEKSTRA (Republican, Michigan): What we really need to be focused on this time is transforming the CIA, rebuilding it and reshaping it, making sure that it's the organization that can effectively confront al-Qaida 24-7.

KEYES: Hayden is National Intelligence Director John Negroponte's top deputy and a former director of the National Security Agency. If named and confirmed, Hayden would be in charge of a planned overhaul of the CIA's mission and functions. Hoekstra says Hayden is a talented guy, but there would be issues with putting a general in charge of a civilian agency.

Rep. HOEKSTRA: The military clearly has intelligence needs. But those intelligence needs are very, very different than what we need as public policymakers and it's very, very different than what the CIA historically has been trying to provide us.

KEYES: Hoekstra thinks a Hayden nomination would be headed for trouble, but Republican Senator John McCain says he's always inclined to support a Presidential nominee. He told CBS' Face the Nation that Hayden is highly qualified for the job and his military background won't be a problem.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): General Hayden is really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force Officer. As you know, his career has been spent in that area and his background, of course he comes from the NSA.

KEYES: But according to former CIA operations and Army Special Forces officer, Michael Vickers, Hayden's intelligence expertise is in a different area than what the CIA does. His background has been principally in technical and signals intelligence.

Mr. MICHAEL VICKERS (Former CIA Officer): And the CIA's principal responsibilities these days are in clandestine human operations and then also in central analysis. Now, he doesn't have a background in those areas and it would be like having a fighter pilot from the Air Force be Chief of Staff of the Army.

KEYES: Hayden is also likely to face tough questions about the Bush Administration's wireless domestic surveillance program, which began while he ran the NSA. Some lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter, have said confirmation hearings for Hayden would give them a chance to find out more about that program. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of the Senate Intelligence Committee also has concerns about a Hayden nomination. He says if Hayden is nominated, he'd like to hear him outline a plan for dealing with the known and documented deficiencies at the CIA and he'd like to know how the general will continue some of the successes of former director Goss.

Senator SAXBY CHAMBLISS (Republican, Georgia): I would like to hear from him in some detail regarding how he intends to bolster the Human Intelligence Collection Division, how he intends to take the four directorates and make sure that they're all working together within the CIA to be sure that we give the Commander in Chief the very best intelligence that we're able to gather.

KEYES: Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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