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Top Two Officials In U.S. Intelligence Expect to Lose Jobs
Intelligence operations and budgets increased under the Bush administration. But the intelligence agencies were the subject of much criticism over their failure to anticipate the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks and their erroneous assessments of weapons of mass destruction, which the administration used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Those concerns led to the 2004 intelligence reforms, which removed the CIA director as head of the 16 U.S. intelligence organizations and established the umbrella Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Hayden and McConnell were not directly tainted by the controversies over Iraq and the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, against terrorism suspects. Both, however, publicly defended the use of "extraordinary" interrogation measures that critics labeled torture.
Hayden, a former head of the National Security Agency, was in charge of the nation's electronic eavesdropping when the White House ordered warrantless surveillance of some U.S.-based communications. McConnell angered some congressional Democrats during a bruising fight over legislation to expand U.S. wiretapping authority.
Much of the pressure for replacing the two men comes from liberal Democrats who argue that a clean break is needed to restore faith in the U.S. intelligence community. Defenders argue that McConnell and Hayden should not be held responsible for policy decisions made by the Bush administration, and that scrutiny seen as politically motivated undermines intelligence morale.
In a Nov. 5 note to the CIA staff, Hayden advised ignoring speculation about personnel changes, saying that "those privileged to lead this organization understand that they serve at the pleasure of the president."
Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.