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Sharp Exchanges: Hayden Hearing Highlights

Scroll down to hear highlights from Thursday's hearings.

Gen. Michael Hayden faced tough, bipartisan grilling Thursday from a Senate panel weighing his nomination to head the CIA. The four-star general repeatedly defended the legality of two controversial surveillance programs begun at the NSA during his six years at the helm of the top-secret intelligence agency.

One program, which was disclosed in December 2005, involves eavesdropping without warrants on international phone calls and e-mails believed to involve terrorism suspects. A second program reportedly tracks millions of phone calls made and received by Americans not suspected of terrorist ties.

Hayden did not confirm reports of this second program during Thursday's Intelligence Committee hearings, but he did say that the NSA used a "probable cause" standard when conducting surveillance, which made it unlikely that information about average Americans would be scrutinized.

Listen to Audio Highlights from Thursday's Hearing

ON THE LEGALITY OF THE NSA'S PROGRAM

ON PRIVACY CONCERNS

In his opening statement, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) defends the NSA's surveillance program as 'legal and necessary.'

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ON REPORTED TENSIONS WITH CHENEY

In an exchange with Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO), Hayden defends the legality of the NSA surveillance program begun shortly after the 9/11 attacks, calling it something he could 'not not do.'

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ON HAYDEN'S CREDIBILITY

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asks Hayden about legal guidance he sought prior to starting the NSA's domestic surveillance program. Hayden says NSA lawyers assured him the program was within the president's authority but didn't put that opinion in writing.

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ON INTELLIGENCE FAILURES

Hayden tells Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) that 'clearly the privacy of American citizens is a concern constantly' when it comes to the surveillance activities of the NSA.

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Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asks Hayden about reports that NSA lawyers opposed Vice President Dick Cheney's efforts to authorize the NSA to intercept 'purely domestic calls.' Hayden replies: 'I can recognize a thin vein of my experience within that story.'

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) questions Hayden's credibility, saying the general had previously told the Intelligence Committee that Trailblazer, a program to modernize the NSA, was 'overachieving' when, in fact, it was floundering. Hayden denies the charge.

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Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) asks Hayden how he plans to address strategic intelligence failures at the CIA. Hayden acknowledges that U.S. operations in Iraq and elsewhere 'suck energy' from intelligence efforts.

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