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President Nominates Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to Head CIA

President Bush nominated Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to serve as the Central Intelligence Agency's next leader, sparking debate over Hayden's military background and his role in the NSA domestic surveillance program. Two members of the House Intelligence Committee discuss the nomination and the CIA's new direction.

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    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    The Senate still must confirm Hayden's nomination.


    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.