Nominee for CIA Chief Hayden Faces a Fight

The Associated Press
Monday, May 8, 2006; 11:20 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA chief ignited a confirmation fight Monday over the intelligence veteran's ties to the controversial eavesdropping program and his ability to be independent from the military establishment.

With Hayden at his side, Bush urged senators to promptly approve the former National Security Agency head, who one year ago was confirmed unanimously to be the nation's first deputy director of national intelligence.

"Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position," Bush said in the Oval Office. "He knows the intelligence community from the ground up."

CIA Director Porter Goss announced his resignation last week after tussling with Hayden and his boss, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, about the agency's autonomy and direction.

Even before Hayden's nomination became official, Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers had begun questioning whether he was the right choice to head the spy agency.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., stopped short of endorsing Hayden: "While I am not opposed to his nomination, senators _ including myself _ will have important questions which they will want addressed."

Hayden is credited with designing the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. Disclosure of the program late last year sparked an intense civil-liberties debate over whether the president can order the monitoring of international calls and e-mails in the U.S. without court warrants.

California Rep. Jane Harman, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, joined colleagues in saying Hayden had become part the "White House spin machine" though intelligence professionals typically eschew partisan politics.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has said that he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the eavesdropping program, and he has not ruled out holding up the nomination in the meantime.

Several Republicans, including House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have called Hayden's military background troublesome in this case. It will fall to Roberts to keep order on the intelligence panel as it considers Hayden's confirmation.

The Senate Armed Services Committee could also hold a hearing about whether to re-approve Hayden as a four-star general serving in the CIA director's slot, a Republican Senate aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to speak for attribution.

Hayden, 61, would be the seventh military officer to head the CIA since 1946. But his nomination comes at a time when lawmakers are particularly concerned about the influence of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press