Reaction to CIA Nomination Crosses Party Lines Going into confirmation hearings, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle credit Gen. Michael Hayden as a leading figure in the intelligence community. But there are concerns over Hayden's military background and his role in the NSA's domestic spy program.
NPR logo Reaction to CIA Nomination Crosses Party Lines

Reaction to CIA Nomination Crosses Party Lines

Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), left, says Gen. Michael Hayden has what it takes to operate independently of the Pentagon. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), right, objects, saying all of the intelligence agencies should not be under the control of the military. Getty Images hide caption

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Reaction to President Bush's nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to lead the CIA isn't falling strictly along party lines. Several Democrats on Capitol Hill, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, say Hayden's experience as the deputy national intelligence director and former head of the National Security Agency (NSA) make him a good pick for the post.

But some lawmakers, including Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), question the choice, citing Hayden's role as a chief architect in the NSA's domestic-spy operation. Here, a sampling of reaction to Hayden's candidacy.


Hayden's Role in NSA Domestic Spying Controversy

Perhaps the most contentious issue Hayden faces is his involvement as director in the National Security Agency's controversial warrantless wiretapping program. Recent reports also claim that the program is larger than the Bush administration has admitted, and includes the tracking of millions of calls within the United States.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): "[Hayden's] going to have to explain what his role was to start with. Did he put that program forward? Whose idea was it? Why was it started? He knows that. He welcomes those questions. He knows that he's not going to be confirmed without answering those questions. Whether that will be a complicating factor or just a factor remains to be seen."

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI): "I believe that this warrantless-wiretapping program that the president authorized was the bailiwick of Mr. Hayden and I know that he wasn't the top man, but the fact is he has stood with the president and others in claiming that somehow the president has inherent authority to do this."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): "I'm going to be asking him, how do we reconcile what you said in public to the Intelligence Committee about this tremendous concern at the NSA for privacy... with him then coming back essentially as a cheerleader for why we ought to have warrantless surveillance."


Separation of Military and Civilian Spy Operations

A number of lawmakers are worried the nomination is a power play by the Department of Defense to take over the spy community. There's also concern that Hayden's experience overseeing technical intelligence operations won't translate well to the at times gray world of spies:

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI): "We need intelligence reform but I think this is such a fundamental step, where we're going to have every single major intelligence agency under the control of the military. ... We need a balanced perspective in the intelligence community to drive military intelligence and drive civilian intelligence."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN): "A lot has been made in terms of the uniform, the tremendous experience and leadership that the general has showed on the military side of the equation. I think that's a huge benefit, a huge advantage. And as I talk to my constituents around the country and in Tennessee, they look upon that as a great strength."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "I believe General Hayden would be either number one, two or three on anybody's list that knows anything about intelligence. So he's a logical choice."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): "My concern has been not over the fact that Mike Hayden has a military uniform on. My concern relates to the fact that he's been at [the Department of Defense] in intelligence. He's a good guy. He's very smart, very capable, but we're now seeking to transfer a person who has that military DOD experience to a civilian intelligence agency."


The Need for an Objective, Independent CIA Chief

Former CIA officials have accused the Bush administration of ignoring or "cherry picking" intelligence to build a case for the war in Iraq. Some on Capitol Hill say they want to know whether Hayden would have the courage to stand up to "politicization" of intelligence:

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) (referring to prewar intelligence): "Intelligence was hyped and stretched and exaggerated. The intelligence community was partly to blame but the policymakers, including the president and vice president, Rumsfeld, have been very much at fault. And the intelligence community did not stand up to them, and allowed the American people, in my judgment, to be misled and the question is whether or not [Hayden's] going to be an objective kind of a head of the CIA and willing to stand up to the policymakers."

Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL): "I have seen Hayden stand up to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. In the run-up to the Iraq war, there was a very contentious disagreement between the military and the civilian intelligence agencies over the nature of America's satellite architecture. Gen. Hayden favored the position of the civilians for a more nimble and flexible system, and successfully stood down Rumsfeld's wishes for more of the same large and static machines."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): "To send a signal of independence from the Pentagon, Gen. Hayden may want to consider retiring from the Air Force."

Associated Press contributed to this report.