Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday approved the nominations of Ambassador John D. Negroponte as the nation's first director of national intelligence and Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden as deputy director and sent their names to the Senate for a vote.
The panel's approval came hours after they listened to Hayden at his confirmation hearing stake out for the DNI direct control over three large Pentagon-based intelligence-collection agencies, a position that could create a conflict with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
For the past six years, Hayden has headed one of the three, the National Security Agency, which intercepts and analyzes electronic messages. Yesterday, he described the NSA; the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which builds and operates spy satellites; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which analyzes imagery, to the senators as "those three muscular national collection agencies" that make up "the fighting forces of the DNI."
Though funding for those intelligence agencies is classified and hidden in the Defense Department budget, funds for each of the three exceed the roughly $4 billion-plus that supports the CIA.
Aware that Rumsfeld has been consolidating intelligence activities within the Pentagon since the legislation creating the DNI was enacted in December, Hayden pointedly said during his 90-minute hearing that the three agencies' relationships with Negroponte "have to be direct."
On March 1, Rumsfeld sent a memo to Hayden, as well as to the directors of the NRO and the NGA, designating Defense Undersecretary Stephen A. Cambone as the contact point in dealing with the DNI. A senior official of one of those agencies recently described the memo as "a poke in the eye of the DNI."
Yesterday, asked by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to comment on the senator's bill proposing the creation of a Pentagon intelligence command, Hayden replied: "The degree that Defense can package up the tactical intelligence activities of the military departments and present them in a unified, integrated, coherent way to the DNI . . . would be a real virtue and something that would be very welcome."
Under the intelligence restructuring law, the DNI will have control over the national intelligence budget, which is about 70 percent of the $40 billion the United States spends on intelligence. The remaining 30 percent, controlled primarily by Rumsfeld, funds the military's tactical intelligence efforts.
"We want to strengthen the center of the community," Hayden said, and "give the DNI real power, certainly more power than we ever gave the DCI" -- the title given the CIA director in his role as director of central intelligence. But as a signal that he understood the Pentagon's concerns, Hayden added that he and Negroponte would "preserve the chain of command."
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the panel chairman, provided Hayden some support, saying that he was aware the military services are the heaviest users of intelligence, but that the president and the White House would be the most important consumers.
Hayden also alerted the CIA, whose director under the law will report to the DNI, that he and Negroponte would exercise control over the agency's activities, including clandestine operations. The agency's clandestine arm, its directorate of operations, was on Hayden's list of "muscular national collection agencies" over which the DNI needs to exert "robust authority."
Hayden, who has rarely testified in public, was pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to give his views on why there was a failure in intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs before the U.S. invasion.
After sessions with analysts who before the war had examined intercepted messages and had voiced confidence that Iraq had chemical and biological stockpiles, Hayden said, he and the analysts "dug deeper." That additional study concluded that "before the war . . . we had a mountain of evidence about WMD from which the community drew conclusions, but that mountain was essentially inferential."
There was "no smoking gun, it was indirect, it was oblique," he said, and analysts reacted to reports of dual-use chemicals and suspicious equipment "bought in a very suspicious way."
Hayden said fixes have been made to remedy a process "that wasn't good enough" because the various agencies' representatives in the National Foreign Intelligence Board studied only their own materials and not those of others. "We had a process that didn't allow the right wholeness of view, holistic view. And we ended up where we were," he said.