No Power Play, Rumsfeld Says
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed the idea that he has been involved in a bureaucratic power play to boost the military's role in intelligence-gathering, and strongly supported Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden's nomination to be the next director of the CIA, describing him yesterday as a seasoned professional.
"He did not come up through the operational chain in the Department of Defense, and at the last minute slide over into the intelligence business," Rumsfeld said of Hayden at a news conference. "He's a person who's had assignment after assignment after assignment in the intelligence business, and clearly, that is what his career has been, and he's been very good at it."
Rumsfeld was even more emphatic in denying that tensions exist inside the government over the Pentagon's growing role in intelligence.
"There's no power play taking place in Washington," he said, insisting that he has had good relationships with John D. Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence, and with former CIA directors George J. Tenet and Porter J. Goss. "I feel very good about the relationships," he said.
Rumsfeld's comments came as Hayden made the rounds on Capitol Hill in preparation for confirmation hearings that could begin as early as Tuesday in both open and closed sessions.
Meanwhile, debate continued over whether this is the right time for an active-duty military officer to lead the government's chief civilian intelligence operation. For some, Rumsfeld's recent moves to bolster the Pentagon's intelligence-gathering operations have added to that concern. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told reporters yesterday that "I don't think a military guy should be head of CIA, frankly."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Hayden should retire from the military to "take care of that issue," the Associated Press reported. Feinstein would not say whether she is leaning toward supporting him. She called his part in an National Security Agency eavesdropping program "a very major concern."
But Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said that Hayden "probably has as much or more expertise in regards to intelligence as anyone."
"He is highly professional," Roberts told reporters. "I think that trumps any concerns that others may have."
During his briefing, Rumsfeld dismissed talk of bureaucratic feuding as "pedestrian and unimpressive."
Rumsfeld did confirm that he had disagreed with Hayden in 2004 when the general, who then headed the NSA, advocated transferring the agency from the Defense Department to the office of the director of national intelligence, which was about to be created as part of an intelligence overhaul.
Rumsfeld has worked to expand the military's role in intelligence since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He has expressed frustration with the inability of the intelligence bureaucracy to quickly produce targeting information.
He has had the Special Operations Command focus far more on missions to kill or capture terrorists and their supporters. He also won approval for man-hunting teams to operate in other nations without the knowledge of the U.S. ambassadors in those countries, according to intelligence officials. And he has increased the Pentagon's ability to collect and analyze "human intelligence," which traditionally was the preserve of the CIA.
Rumsfeld said that he is trying "to fulfill my statutory responsibility . . . to see that our commanders have the kind of information they need."
Rumsfeld also commented on the mistaken intelligence that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, describing himself as a consumer of that product. "It turns out it was wrong, that intelligence," he said. But he said it was the same information that was available to members of Congress and other nations.
That is the account provided recently by other administration officials, in sharp contrast to the stance of the administration during the run-up to the war. For example, on Sept. 8, 2002, Vice President Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that those who doubted his assertions about the threat posed by Iraq had not "seen all the intelligence that we have seen."