Hayden Nomination for CIA Raises Criticism
Monday, May 8, 2006; 2:14 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Monday chose Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to lead the embattled CIA, re-igniting a debate over the domestic surveillance program that the one-time head of the National Security Agency once ran.
Republican and Democratic critics also questioned the wisdom of putting a military officer in charge of the civilian spy agency.
"Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position," Bush said in the Oval Office, with Hayden at his side. Without mentioning Hayden's critics or their objections, the president said: "He knows the intelligence community from the ground up."
If confirmed, Hayden would replace Porter Goss, who resigned under pressure Friday.
He said that Hayden "has been a provider and consumer of intelligence."
To balance the CIA between military and civilian leadership, the White House plans to move aside the agency's No. 2 official, Vice Admiral Albert Calland III, who took over as deputy director less than a year ago, two senior administration officials said. Other personnel changes also are likely, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the changes are not ready to announce.
Talk of Hayden's nomination rekindled debate over the administration's domestic surveillance program, which Hayden used to oversee as the former head of the National Security Agency.
"There's probably no post more important in preserving our security and our values as people than the CIA," Hayden said.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that to send a signal of independence from the Pentagon, Hayden "may want to consider retiring from the Air Force. That would put to rest questions about whether an active duty military officer should lead the CIA at this time."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said in advance that he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the domestic surveillance program.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned that Hayden's nomination would detract from the real issue of intelligence reform.
His sentiment was echoed by Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and by several Democrats.