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Gen. Hayden Defends NSA Surveillance Program at CIA Nomination Hearings

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, President Bush's nominee for CIA director, fielded questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program created after Sept. 11th while Hayden was head of NSA.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Analysis of the day's testimony now from David Ignatius, foreign affairs columnist, former foreign correspondent for the Washington Post. He's written widely on intelligence issues.

    And Mark Lowenthal, former government intelligence professional, he also was on the House Intelligence Committee staff when the outgoing CIA chief, Porter Goss, was a member.

    David Ignatius, what, in your opinion, was the most important thing we've learned about Michael Hayden today?

  • DAVID IGNATIUS, The Washington Post:

    Well, you know, I think we saw that he's a straightforward guy from Pittsburgh. He gave a good account of himself. I think that he really tried to balance his answers.

    On the one hand, he was talking about the change at CIA, more risk-taking, forward-leaning, not back on its heels. On the other hand, he was talking I think, in part, to CIA officers saying: We'll try to keep CIA central in the intelligence process. There is great fear out in Langley that they're going to be left behind.

    I think that he was careful in his answers. I think what I saw in these hearings was a careful man. And you can see how he rose up in the military ranks; you can see how he had all of the jobs that he did.

    The concern I have is that he may have too much of that bureaucratic caution in trying to, you know, be all things to all people. And in intelligence, you may end up layering, overlapping functions. That's some of what we're seeing now, and I didn't hear answers that convinced me that that's not going to be a problem going forward.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Mr. Lowenthal?

    MARK LOWENTHAL, Former Assistant Director, Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production: I think the main thing he accomplished that he allowed the public to see who he was. I mean, the CIA, as General Hayden, noted has been in the news a lot.

    It probably has a certain unsettling aspect to Americans. They wonder, you know, is anyone in charge out there? You're ditching directors, and you have all of this turmoil.

    And I think people got a chance to see Mike Hayden, that he's calm, he's thoughtful, he has an idea of where he wants to go, that, you know, the agency will be in good hands. And I think that was probably a very important message.

    The members know him. They've seen him on — Senator Roberts said, you know, 13 briefings just on the program, but I think getting his persona out to the public, and, as David says, to the workforce — some of whom do know him — was really very important. And I think he did very well at it.

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