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President Nominates Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to Head CIA

May 8, 2006 at 6:20 PM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush’s choice for the new director of the CIA has had a lengthy career in both the U.S. military and intelligence community.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position. I’ve come to know him as our nation’s first deputy director of national intelligence. In that position, he’s worked closely with our director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, to reform America’s intelligence capabilities to meet the threats of a new century.

KWAME HOLMAN: As Negroponte’s deputy, Hayden helped oversee the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies. Before that, the four-star Air Force general spent six years as director of the National Security Agency, the largest U.S. intelligence agency, dedicated to eavesdropping on telephone and other electronic communications.

Hayden also held a series of senior espionage and national security positions around the world during his 30-year Air Force career.

As NSA chief, Hayden implemented a surveillance program after 9/11 that allowed the agency to tap without warrants international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens in its pursuit of terror suspects. He defended the program in February, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, Deputy Director of National Intelligence: One of the issues we have before us as a people, as we balance security and liberty, is that the global telecommunications system and our enemies don’t recognize borders the same way we do.

And there should be different standards for activities conducted by an agency like NSA and, again, electronic surveillance for a foreign intelligence purpose when it involves inside or outside the borders of the United States.

KWAME HOLMAN: Lawmakers in both parties criticized the warrantless wiretap program. Others have balked at putting a military official in charge of the civilian spy agency. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a senior Senate Democrat, spoke this afternoon.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), Connecticut: I clearly think he has to take off the stars if he’s going to serve. You can’t walk into that building in a military uniform, in my — I think that creates too many problems for the people who are careerists at the Central Intelligence Agency to have that potential conflict in their minds.

But, secondly, there are serious reservations I have about the nominee because of his lack of concern, in my view, about the NSA surveillance operations.

KWAME HOLMAN: At a White House news conference today, National Intelligence Director Negroponte responded.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, National Intelligence Director: To those who raise a question about the fact that Mike Hayden wears the uniform — and proudly so — of the United States Air Force, I would respond: They should look at the qualifications.

And I think they can also be assured that Mike Hayden is a very, very independent-minded person, blunt-spoken, and who I don’t think will have any difficulty whatsoever staking out positions that are independent and responsive to the needs of our civilian intelligence community.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Senate still must confirm Hayden’s nomination.

JIM LEHRER: And to two members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Heather Wilson, Republican of New Mexico, she’s a former Air Force officer who worked with General Hayden while on the National Security Council staff under the first President Bush.

And Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California.

Congresswoman Eshoo, what do you think of the Hayden choice?

REP. ANNA ESHOO (D) California: I don’t think it’s the best choice that the president could have made. There is already a great deal of controversy that swirls around this nomination from both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats.

Certainly, General Hayden was the architect of the domestic surveillance program. It’s even been reported that it was General Hayden that suggested this program to the president.

The other strong reservation that I have is that you really can’t serve two masters at the same time.

The CIA is a demoralized organization today; it needs to be revitalized. There is a deep struggle between the Pentagon and the CIA, and to put someone in that wears the stars — and, of course, General Hayden has served our country magnificently — but it’s not a good fit.

And so I’m troubled by the nomination. I don’t think we need a nomination that will have a lot of controversy, because the agency needs to be revitalized; the morale needs to be brought back up. And there is very, very critical work to be done, in terms of the intelligence for our country.

Opposition to a military man

Rep. Anna Eshoo
D - Calif.
General Hayden has been an enthusiastic supporter of the domestic surveillance program that is not operating under the law; that gives me pause, and I believe it gives many Americans pause.

JIM LEHRER: All right.

Congresswoman Wilson, let's take these issues one at a time. First of all, the stars issue. He's in the military. It's a civilian intelligence agency. You know the complaint. How do you answer that?

REP. HEATHER WILSON (R) New Mexico: Mike Hayden is a great leader. And I don't think anybody should be surprised that we bring up great leaders through the United States military.

There have been -- six of the 19 directors of the CIA throughout history have been military officers. Most recently was Admiral Stansfield Turner, who was President Carter's director of the Central Intelligence Agency. So about a third of directors of the CIA have been military officers.

And I think Mike is the kind of guy that can provide the leadership to that agency that it does desperately need as we try to restore our nation's human intelligence.

JIM LEHRER: What about the point that was raised that it sends the wrong message to the civilian career CIA operatives?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: You know, I have watched Mike Hayden in various leadership roles. I've known him for over 15 years. He is a good leader of people, and that's what that agency needs.

He's got 20 years of experience in intelligence and 30 years of strong public service. And I think he will do a great job as the head of that agency, and I say that knowing him pretty well.

JIM LEHRER: Congresswoman Eshoo, what about that? A leader is a leader, wherever they come from.

REP. ANNA ESHOO: Well, I think that he has leadership capabilities, and he has exhibited them. But the context here is to be the director of the CIA. And that's where I part company with my colleague from the House Intelligence Committee.

General Hayden has been an enthusiastic supporter of the domestic surveillance program that is not operating under the law; that gives me pause, and I believe it gives many Americans pause.

But we also need to remember that the 9/11 Commission made significant recommendations. And out of those recommendations, one of the recommendations was that we overhaul the intelligence community because of what happened to our country.

We are now at least two years past that, almost two years past that, where we overhaul the agency, all of the intelligence community. And we need, I believe, people that are going to be able to pull all of this together.

There is a terrible struggle between the Pentagon and the CIA. To put a military officer in the middle of the CIA, I do not think meets the needs of our time, the challenges of our time, and that's why I don't think this is the best nomination that President Bush could have made.

Intra-agency conflicts

Rep. Heather Wilson
R - New Mexico
Mike Hayden has not only shown his independence when necessary, as the head of the National Security Agency and as a deputy DNI, this guy is a four-star general. It's not like Rumsfeld is going to hold up his next promotion or something.

JIM LEHRER: Well, very specifically, Congresswoman Wilson, do you see the same struggle between the Pentagon and the CIA going on right now that Congresswoman Eshoo does?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: There is always a certain push and pull between the Pentagon and the other intelligence agencies, and I think there's no question that Secretary Rumsfeld is schooled in the kind of interagency struggles in the bureaucratic world.

But, you know, Mike Hayden has not only shown his independence when necessary, as the head of the National Security Agency and as a deputy DNI, this guy is a four-star general. It's not like Rumsfeld is going to hold up his next promotion or something.

I think he will serve well, and he will serve the interests of the country as a whole. And that's the kind of guy Mike Hayden is.

JIM LEHRER: So you don't believe that putting a four-star general in charge of the CIA gives a leg up to -- in this struggle between the Pentagon and the CIA?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: No, I don't. I think Mike Hayden is the kind of people-oriented leader with a deep knowledge of intelligence who can pull people together out at Langley. And I think he showed himself to be a great leader at the NSA, as well, which is a much larger agency than the CIA.

JIM LEHRER: So it's irrelevant that he's a four-star general in the military, from your point of view?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: No, I think he's a great leader with a great background in intelligence matters. And, like I said, I don't think it's a big surprise to people that we grow great leaders in the Air Force.

JIM LEHRER: All right. The other major point that Congresswoman Eshoo has made is his involvement in the National Security Agency surveillance program. Does that give you any trouble, Congresswoman Wilson?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: I was one of the ones that called for greater oversight by the Congress on the president's program for surveillance. And to his credit, when he was given the green light, Mike Hayden came up and was very, very candid about the program, its authorities, how it operates, and so forth. And in my book, he gets some credit for that.

JIM LEHRER: So you don't -- it's not a negative from your point of view?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: No. And, you know, Anna has the view that this program is not legal. There is another point of view that says it's fully within the president's authority.

I try to focus on: What does the nation need? And do we need to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make sure we can spy on our enemies, and keep this country safe, and protect civil liberties, within the communications technologies of the 21st century?

But this argument about whether it was or wasn't legal and whose lawyers are best is not the perspective that I come at this at.

Mysterious departure of Porter Goss

JIM LEHRER: Congresswoman Eshoo, the other issue that, of course, is still on the table is the stewardship of Porter Goss as director of CIA. How does his situation look to you now after his resignation on Friday, based on your experience as being a member of the House Intelligence Committee?

REP. ANNA ESHOO: Well, he was the chairman of the committee when I went on to it in the last Congress, and so I had differences with him. I respect Porter Goss; he was a colleague in the House. But I had many differences with him.

And I did not think that the House Committee on Intelligence was doing the kind of strong oversight that the Congress is responsible for, and I believe that his tenure -- his short tenure -- at the CIA was a rather tumultuous one.

And he has served our country for a long time. And I'm grateful to him for that, and I salute him for it.

JIM LEHRER: But whether it's Mike Hayden or somebody else, do you think it was time for Porter Goss to go, he should have been replaced?

REP. ANNA ESHOO: Well, that wasn't my call.


REP. ANNA ESHOO: He's gone now. And you were asking me to comment on what kind of service he's given, long service to the country, as I said. We had differences, in terms of approach.

My biggest criticism when he was chairman of the Intelligence Committee was that the committee was not doing the kind of oversight that the Congress is responsible for.

And, again, I think his service, his short tenure, was a rather tumultuous one. It was a transitional period, but it was still tumultuous. He took over a highly partisan staff from the House Intelligence Committee. They went over there, and they were like bulls in a China shop, and we lost over 300 years of top-flight professional talent out of the CIA.

That's why the agency needs to be revitalized, and I think we need the right person to do it.

JIM LEHRER: Congresswoman Wilson, how does the Goss tenure look to you?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: I talked to Porter today. I served with him, as well, in the House, and I think he served well and admirably at a difficult time, as we try to restore our nation's human intelligence after 10 years of decline in the 1990s.

We closed about a third of our overseas human intelligence collection sites in the 1990s, and we're now trying to rebuild that human intelligence capability.

So he served at a very difficult time. I think he's probably glad to be going into retirement and be given back a little bit of his own life.

JIM LEHRER: Congresswoman Wilson, he said on Saturday -- he was asked, "What is the reason, sir, for your departure?" And he said, "That's a mystery, and it's going to remain a mystery." Can you solve the mystery for us?


JIM LEHRER: Can you, Congresswoman Eshoo?

REP. ANNA ESHOO: No, I don't know that, Jim. But, you know, in America, sooner or later it comes out.

Restoring the CIA


And do you agree -- Congresswoman Wilson, do you agree with Congresswoman Eshoo that the real job of the new -- forget Porter Goss for the moment -- that the real new job for the new CIA director is to bring the CIA back, raise its morale, and do all kinds of major changes, whether it's Mike Hayden or whoever it is?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: The real challenge at the Central Intelligence Agency is to restore our human intelligence and to improve our intelligence analysis, and that agency is central to human intelligence, which is human spies in very difficult-to-penetrate places.

And that's what they do, and they have to be the best in the world at that. In some ways, the job is much more difficult than it was during the Cold War, because we're trying to penetrate not countries and establish static governments, but loosely connected groups of terrorists who are suicidal.

And that is much more difficult, a much more difficult problem, and they have their work cut out for them.

JIM LEHRER: And would you agree that they're not the best in the world as we speak?

REP. HEATHER WILSON: I think we need to restore our human intelligence capabilities after a decade of decline; they are not as good as they need to be in a very dangerous world.

JIM LEHRER: All right. Thank you both very much.

REP. ANNA ESHOO: Thank you.