By Peter Baker and Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
The White House moved quickly yesterday to defuse concern over the nomination of Gen. Michael V. Hayden for CIA director, promising to balance the leadership of the nation's premier civilian spy agency with a well-known and popular veteran of the organization in the No. 2 position.
In a highly unorthodox move, the White House disclosed the plan shortly after President Bush's formal announcement of Hayden's nomination in the Oval Office, in hopes of reassuring those worried about too much military influence over the intelligence community.
Under the plan, Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland III would be replaced as deputy director by retired CIA official Stephen R. Kappes, who quit in November 2004 in a dispute with then-Director Porter J. Goss.
The move was seen as a direct repudiation of Goss's leadership and as an olive branch to CIA veterans disaffected by his 18-month tenure, during which many other senior officials followed Kappes out the door. The White House was so eager to get out the news of Kappes's likely appointment that it was announced from the lectern in the briefing room, even though the Senate has not yet confirmed Hayden and Kappes was officially described as "the leading contender" for the job.
Other Goss lieutenants at the agency also appear to be on the way out, following Goss, who resigned Friday. Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, brought in by Goss as the CIA's executive director -- its No. 3 official -- announced to agency staff in an e-mail yesterday that he plans to resign as well. The FBI said it is investigating whether Foggo steered contracts to a friend, Brent R. Wilkes. The CIA confirmed last week that Foggo attended private poker games with Wilkes at a Washington hotel.
The moves are part of a concerted effort by the president's team to recover ground after several key Republicans expressed reservations about Hayden's nomination over the weekend, citing his military background and involvement in warrantless domestic surveillance. Most damaging to the White House was criticism by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the House intelligence committee chairman, who called Hayden "the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Without naming Hoekstra, Bush appeared to directly rebut him yesterday while appearing with Hayden before cameras in the Oval Office. "He's the right man to lead the CIA at this critical moment in our nation's history," Bush said.
Bush also reached out to the skeptical CIA workforce, which has gone through years of tumult since the failure to stop the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the flawed assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. "In Mike Hayden, the men and women of the CIA will have a strong leader who will support them," Bush said.
Hayden, wearing a pressed blue Air Force uniform with four stars on the shoulders, also tried to reassure the civilian spies.
"If confirmed, I would be honored to join you and work with so many good friends," he said. "Your achievements are frequently underappreciated and hidden from the public eye, but you know what you do to protect the republic."
But Hayden, the deputy national intelligence director and formerly head of the National Security Agency, declined to retire his military commission, as several senators from both parties recommended. "That is not his intention at this particular time," John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, said at a briefing.
The CIA has had several military officers as its director, but none in the past 25 years, and Hayden's nomination comes at a time when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has moved aggressively to expand the Pentagon's intelligence operations. Hayden's nomination has also reignited debate over the legality of the NSA's secret eavesdropping without court approval on telephone calls and e-mail between the United States and overseas in cases when one participant is suspected of terrorist ties.
Despite the concerns expressed by some lawmakers over the weekend, Hayden received a warm reception yesterday in the place it matters most -- the Senate intelligence committee, which will handle his confirmation hearings. Committee Republicans either fully embraced him or, at worst, reserved judgment, and a key Democrat said she expects to support Hayden and assumes he will be confirmed.
"He's going to surround himself with professional people," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told reporters. "The Gosslings are going," she added, referring to Goss's close coterie of aides installed at Langley. "Rumsfeld wanted to control the NSA, and to his credit Hayden stood up."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said in an interview that Hayden "is just about as capable as anyone I've ever seen." He said Hayden's military position is an asset, not a drawback. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) also praised Hayden in an interview, calling him well qualified for the post. Having a civilian in the deputy slot is good, he added, because "you want someone in there who balances you out and complements you."
Even if Hayden is confirmed, several senators, including Republicans, made it clear they intend to use the process to examine issues such as the NSA surveillance, the civilian-military balance and other matters.
"While I am not opposed to his nomination, senators, including myself, will have important questions which they will want addressed prior to any confirmation vote," Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said in a statement.
Several liberal Democrats signaled that they may fight, judging by the critical remarks of senators such as Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), John F. Kerry (Mass.), Frank R. Lautenberg (N.J.) and Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.). "The last thing America needs is a 'yes man' at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency," Kennedy said.
"The appointment of General Hayden is the latest example of President Bush giving promotions to those who have led the greatest attacks on our Constitution and fundamental freedoms," Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
But the apparent decision to name Kappes as Hayden's deputy resonated powerfully within the CIA and may ease resistance by the agency. A low-key former Marine and 23-year CIA veteran who served in the Near East, South Asia and Europe, Kappes had risen to chief of the agency's clandestine service and was seen as a future director. He traveled secretly to Libya in 2004 to persuade its leader, Moammar Gaddafi, to renounce weapons of mass destruction.
But Kappes clashed immediately with Patrick Murray, the former Capitol Hill aide whom Goss installed as his chief of staff at the CIA. After one month on the job, Murray demanded that Kappes fire his deputy, Michael Sulick, for challenging Murray's authority. Kappes refused and he and Sulick resigned, triggering an unprecedented flood of resignations that the president's advisory board on intelligence this year blamed on Goss.
Kappes's appointment was seen among former and current CIA officers as a sign that Hayden will embrace professionals once again and understands the central role of experienced spies in developing a new National Clandestine Service, the name for those tasked with espionage and penetrating terrorist networks. Several said Kappes would immediately give Hayden a smooth landing at the agency, which one former official described as suffering from "battered-child syndrome" under Goss.
"This will send a wonderful signal to the agency that Hayden understands them, trusts them and honors the work they have done," said former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.
"It's a phenomenal choice," said A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard, a former executive director of the CIA. "It's an admission that it was a big mistake for Goss to bring in the people he did and let them loose with no adult supervision."
Staff writer Dana Priest contributed to this report.