Hayden's Hands-On Style Changes Tone at CIA

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2006

On Mondays at 8:30 a.m., the top 20 CIA staff members gather in the Operations Center on the seventh floor of the agency's headquarters in Langley. The pace is quick -- no one even sits down -- as the staffers tell their director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, what to expect in their areas of expertise over the next 48 hours.

The meeting highlights the sharp change in tone at the agency since Hayden took over from his predecessor, Porter J. Goss. A former congressman, Goss was not used to dealing with a large staff of senior managers; instead, he worked primarily through a handful of personal aides, most of whom he brought from Capitol Hill.

Goss did not personally run the early-morning staff meeting, leaving that to his executive director. He held his own once-a-week meeting on Wednesdays, later in the morning, according to one participant.

Hayden is more hands-on and is working to improve the flow of information through the agency. His task is complex -- to prevent the kind of intelligence failures highlighted by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the faulty information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, while restoring a sense of confidence and mission within the CIA.

As a result of post-Sept. 11 legislation creating a director of national intelligence, the CIA director is free from responsibility for other government intelligence operations and is able to focus on the agency. Hayden also has the added duty of overseeing all human intelligence gathered abroad.

He recently sat for an interview in his office, along with his top three deputies. While the officials declined to talk about the specifics of their jobs, they outlined the practices Hayden is using to make his mark on the agency.

"The Monday meeting is in our Ops Center, just to kind of give the week the right flavor, a stand-up meeting . . . designed to be short and move on," Hayden said. Sometimes the session lasts just three or four minutes. Those attending meet to find out from the operations duty officer what transpired overnight and then to hear from others around the room.

One recent morning, with Hayden called to a meeting downtown, Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes ran it. The senior duty officer opened with an update on developments in Iraq and some items on jihad Web sites. As Kappes subsequently went around the room, there was little beyond the ordinary. "The rest was just quick and uneventful," said one participant.

John E. McLaughlin -- who served as deputy director under Goss and Goss's predecessor, George J. Tenet -- said he and Tenet regarded the 8:30 staff meeting as a way for top officials "to put on the table whatever they wanted." After a lapse under Goss, "it looks like they're getting back to business" under Hayden and Kappes, McLaughlin said.

Hayden has actually cut back on the number of set meetings at the CIA but holds impromptu gatherings as needed. "We're trying to take much more of a 'no nonsense' approach," Kappes said.

Hayden gets an early start each day, when he is picked up from his Bolling Air Force Base house at 6:45 a.m. He reads the President's Daily Brief (PDB) in the car, with his own briefer there to answer questions or expand on the contents. By the time he gets to the Langley headquarters building and reads other incoming cables, it's about 8 a.m.

"I get to work as director of the Central Intelligence Agency as John Negroponte is waiting to go into the Oval Office" to brief President Bush, Hayden said. Before the 2004 intelligence reorganization, that would have been Hayden's job. Now, Hayden said, he attends the Oval Office morning briefing about once a week with Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. "I'm there representing the CIA, talking about activities beyond the intelligence analysis inside the PDB."

Although Negroponte's office controls what goes into the PDB and contributions come from all parts of the intelligence community, the CIA's analytic staff still writes a major part of it and handles the editing and production of the report. "The DNI himself still has final say as to whether an item goes or doesn't go," said Larry Pfeiffer, Hayden's chief of staff.

Around 9:15 a.m., the White House and other PDB briefers from the CIA -- one each for the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security -- return to Langley and give feedback to Hayden, Kappes and others based on what Bush, Vice President Cheney, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Cabinet members said that morning. Those questions and requests turn into tasks for the agency.

Hayden handles a number of ceremonial duties, which he described as "some things on campus that only a director can do," referring to the headquarters area, and "probably a fair amount of the time representing the CIA outside the agency."

These include National Security Council meetings that take up specific major issues and the principals' meetings of top administration officials, also at the White House but chaired by Hadley. For these, a team of CIA officers and analysts are brought in beforehand to brief either Hayden or Kappes.

There are weekly program-manager meetings with Negroponte or his principal deputy held on Monday afternoons, regular lunches with Negroponte and the defense secretary, periodic lunches with FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, regular meetings with Negroponte, and, in most weeks, a meeting with Hadley and Negroponte in which they are often joined by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

With Hadley, the subjects are often operations issues that may require presidential involvement. With Negroponte, they generally concern approval of overall strategy. "Briefing concepts, but normally not approval of that particular thing or this particular thing . . . not down to the fine print," Hayden said. Covert action programs have to go through a traditional process of reviews run by the NSC, "and depending on who is meeting, one of us is there," he said.

One of Kappes's duties is to be, as he put it, "transferable for the director . . . so I can go in any direction when I leave the house, depending on needs." He and Hayden share some meetings and divvy up others.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4:30 p.m., there is an operational meeting that includes the chiefs of the clandestine service and the CIA's counterterrorism center, along with the representatives of other agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It is the successor to the daily 5 p.m. meeting that Tenet initiated after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate anti-terrorism intelligence and operations.

Last Friday, at the 4:30 meeting, Hayden said he went first and "laid out two or three taskings that did come about as a result of the events and conversations of the day." Issues taken up go beyond counterterrorism, but that is normally the main topic on Mondays and Wednesdays and at specially called meetings in between when actions have to be taken immediately.

Though neither Hayden nor Kappes would detail a typical day, McLaughlin, referring back to his time running the agency, gave what he said was a hypothetical example. Each morning began when he was given a scheduling card, filled in on both sides, that laid out his day in 30-minute chunks.

"You would go from meeting some foreign intelligence chief to a discussion on counterintelligence with the FBI," he said. "Then on to the White House to brief on Indonesia or Brazil, then back to headquarters for some guy who's retiring, then for a meeting with a delegation from some other agency that's angry about something we had done."

For a CIA director, he said, "there are a number of decisions where there are no good choices, between the levels of risk and the knowledge that under the best of circumstances things can go wrong. . . . It is the most fascinating job in Washington where, today, intelligence is central to everything that is being done."


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