By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, a career intelligence officer who has overseen some of the government's most secret and controversial surveillance programs, was confirmed by the Senate yesterday to head the CIA as it tries to regain some of its lost luster.
Senators voted 78 to 15 to confirm Hayden to succeed Porter J. Goss, who steps down today after 18 stormy months.
The Senate endorsed President Bush's view that Hayden is the right person to take the helm of an agency still rocked by intelligence failures that preceded the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bush first chose Goss, then a GOP House member from Florida, for the task. But the president lost confidence after Goss and his openly partisan aides clashed with veteran officials in the CIA and other agencies.
Hayden's nomination drew fire from some Democrats and civil liberties groups because he headed the National Security Agency when it began conducting warrantless wiretaps of Americans' international phone calls in a bid to find possible terrorists. Hayden and Bush, who acknowledged the program only after press reports outlined it, have said the effort is narrowly targeted at terrorism suspects.
But thousands of phone calls reportedly have been monitored without producing promising leads, and many lawmakers say Hayden and other officials have yet to explain adequately why they should not have to obtain court warrants for the wiretaps.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (Pa.), the only Republican to vote against confirmation, said he did so to protest "the administration's policy of not informing the Congress . . . in a way which enables the Congress and the Judiciary Committee to do our constitutional job on oversight." He called Hayden "a man with an outstanding record."
Specter joined 14 Democrats in opposing confirmation. Supporting it were 52 Republicans, 25 Democrats and one independent. The senators from Maryland and Virginia voted to confirm Hayden.
Bush praised the vote for Hayden in a statement, saying: "Winning the war on terror requires that America have the best intelligence possible, and his strong leadership will ensure that we do. General Hayden is a patriot and a dedicated public servant whose broad experience, dedication, and expertise make him the right person to lead the CIA at this critical time."
When Bush nominated Hayden on May 8, several House Republicans and a few senators said they feared that his military background was inappropriate for a CIA director at a time when the Pentagon is aggressively trying to expand its role in intelligence matters. But Hayden, an engaging man who excels at briefing lawmakers, said in private meetings and open hearings that he has stood up to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld when he disagreed with the secretary's policies and is willing to do so again.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who raised questions about Hayden's active military status, said yesterday that the general "has convinced me that he can make the transition from the military side to the civilian side of the intelligence community while continuing to move the CIA in a positive direction of change and transition."
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) voted against confirmation. She said in a statement that the CIA director should "show respect for the rule of law and recognition of the oversight role of Congress." She added: "General Michael Hayden has had a distinguished career serving our nation . . . However, I believe there are unanswered questions about whether he will exercise the independence and judgment necessary to be an effective CIA director in an administration that has rejected contrary views."
Senate Democrats signaled from the start that they would not make a concerted effort to block the nomination. Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) voted for confirmation and said, "I am hopeful General Hayden will provide the CIA the kind of nonpartisan leadership it has sorely lacked for the past several years."