Hayden Unafraid to Confront Controversy
Monday, May 8, 2006; 12:04 PM
WASHINGTON -- Michael Hayden doesn't run from a fight, which is just what seemingly awaits the 61-year-old Air Force general named to be the new chief of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the then-head of the National Security Agency was telling intelligence-gathering teams how they would fight back: White House-approved electronic monitoring, without court orders, of the international calls and e-mails of people in the United States when terrorism was suspected.
When the New York Times disclosed the program in December, triggering an uproar over its legality, Hayden plunged right in, defending the surveillance in a speech at the National Press Club.
"Frankly, people in my line of work generally don't like to talk about what they've done until it becomes a subject on the History Channel," Hayden said. "But let me make one thing very clear. As challenging as this morning might be, this is the speech I want to give."
Hayden ran the super-secretive NSA from 1999 until last year, when he became the top deputy to the new national intelligence director, John Negroponte, who oversees the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies.
It could prove a contentious battle to switch to the CIA, given the reaction from lawmakers on the Sunday talk shows. They said the CIA is a civilian agency and putting Hayden atop it would concentrate too much power in the military for intelligence matters.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the Judiciary Committee chairman, also spoke of using the Senate's role in the nomination process as "leverage" in finding out more than the Bush administration has provided so far about the warrantless monitoring.
But Hayden has shown he is not one to shy away from difficult situations.
Matthew Aid, a historian who is writing a book on the NSA, said when a deputy director resisted change at the agency, Hayden sent her to London to fill a liaison job with the British.
Hayden's public defense of the warrantless surveillance program showed his aggressiveness and his ability to dispense with a general's jargon.
Even critics of the surveillance praise his clarity. For them, the problem is in the message.
"I think he is part of the White House spin machine on the NSA program," said California Rep. Jane Harman, who has known Hayden for years and is the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. But, she said, he does an excellent job in his briefings.