Transcript

Hayden Nominated to Head CIA

John Brennan
Fmr CIA Official/President and CEO, The Analysis Corporation
Tuesday, May 9, 2006; 12:00 PM

John Brennan , former head of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center who was with the CIA for 25 years and is now president and CEO of The Analysis Corporation, was online Tuesday, May 9, at noon ET to discuss President Bush 's nomination of General Michael V. Hayden to lead the CIA and replace Porter Goss , who announced his resignation Friday.

Hayden Nominated to Head CIA , ( May 8, 2006 )

The transcript follows.

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Woodbridge, Va.: I was wondering if you could comment on an article by Marc Gerecht (a former Middle Eastern specialist for the CIA) that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. In the article he remarks that the CIA's free-fall had very little to do with Mr. Goss's tenure and everything to do with a risk averse culture characterized by case officers who sat around in embassies waiting for intelligence to come their way. He states that the institution had been rotting from within for a long period of time and goes on to make the point that it is a myth to think Mr. Goss forced out numerous critical CIA officers for shallow political reasons but that, in reality, he encountered an entrenched bureaucracy unwilling change. My question is, does the CIA's supposed morale boost, associated with the re-ascendance of those who opposed reform (represented by nomination of Mr. Kappes as the Deputy Director) really constitute progress if the agency so desperately needs to be deconstructed? After all, if Mr. Tenet deserved the Medal of Freedom, then who is accountable for the claim that the existence of WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk?"

John Brennan: There is a lot in your question. Personally, I do not look to Raul Gerecht for insights about the Agency. His information is dated and and I believe frequently inconsistent with the facts. The Agency should not be deconstructed......its work is critical to this nation's security. Kappes and Hayden are outstanding intelligence professionals, and they will help reconstruct the Agency at a time when the country needs it most.

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Ashland, Mo.: The areas where the CIA has been deficient are well known - but not its successes. Is part of the problem with the current CIA that it is in constant CYA posture. It will not reach any conclusion for fear it will be found to be incorrect. Therefore, some part of the agency will support every position so that if one part is incorrect, another part will be correct. This leads to constant infighting and few useful conclusions. Moreover, is the agency simply too full of hubris over its mission?

John Brennan: The Agency has many more successes than failures. Some of the failures are due to lack of resources, poor policy choices, and other causes. Other failures are because Agency officers didn't perform as they were expected. As for your comment about reluctance to reach a conclusion, the intelligence is a complex one. While Agency officers are willing to state their "findings" and "judgments," it is also their obligations to raise reporting or analytic arguments that are contrary to their considered views, as policymakers expect them to give them countervailing information or arguments.

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Harlingen, Tex.: What can Gen. Hayden possibly do to salvage the situation at the CIA given the broader mess in Washington that will limit his options?

To me (25 years in the intelligence community) it seems as if the car has already driven off the cliff, and changing drivers now isn't going to make much difference when it hits the ground.

John Brennan: The Intelligence Community has gone through some very tough times over the past several years, and I would agree that there is a lot of changes and improvements that need to be made. That is why having experienced intelligence professionals like Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes take the helm of CIA is so important at this time of transformation and transition. Mike and Steve know the strengths and, more importantly, know the weaknesses of the Agency and the Community. I believe that they can get the CIA on the right track, which is tremendously important to this nation's security.

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Bethesda, Md.: I was watching the News Hour and someone pointed out that a military person might be a bad influence on the CIA. How would the staff like a military person?

John Brennan: It all depends on the person. Mike Hayden is an outstanding intelligence professional, and he has demonstrated over the years that he is willing to stand up to the SecDef on intelligence matters. I believe that the more enlightened CIA officers will look at the quality of the person nominated rather than the uniform he wears.

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Washington, D.C.: Under Goss' tenure the publication of books by former CIA employees was condemned reversing a trend that had existed at least since the early to mid-1990s.

The Publication Review Board (PRB), which had normally been very successful in working with prospective authors in order to sanitize classified information, found itself ordered to take hard-line positions. Indeed, its last Director reportedly left the position for this very reason.

Do you see any potential change in attitude should Gen Hayden and Kappos be installed as leadership?

John Brennan: I have submitted several articles to the PRB and have not had any trouble. I have heard that approvals have become more difficult in recent weeks and that there is a serious delay in getting articles turned around. I am confident that Hayden and Kappes would make sure that the PRB process is a smooth one, which means that it will give a careful scrub to submissions to ensure that classified information does not get out but that the review will take place in a timely manner.

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Laramie, Wyo.: Isn't it against the law for the head of the CIA and the Deputy to both be military (active or retired)? Why hasn't the well-connected press been all over this? And has anyone informed Vice Admiral Albert Calland III?

John Brennan: Yes, only the director or the deputy director can be active duty military. The current deputy, Admiral Bert Calland, will step down if Hayden is confirmed. This issue has been raised in the press.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Dear Mr. Brennan,

According to Melissa Boyle Mahle, on the day of 9/11, DCI Tenet spoke to the agency to inform them that in essence, the CIA had done everything it could have done, and that CIA employees should not worry. She then went on to criticize him for not owning up to the CIA's failure to stop 9/11.

But what struck me was this: Why would the DCI assure the agency it had acted appropriately after 3,000 Americans had just died? Could it be that the DCI had in fact been going around with his hair on fire? Was he implying that the attack was the fault of the FBI, Dr. Rice, and Mr. Bush?

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

John Brennan: The Agency worked hard before 9/11 to prevent al-Qa'ida from carrying out its plans to attack U.S. interests, including in the Homeland. And no one worked more tirelessly at that effort than George Tenet. I know that from personal experience. However, all the efforts carried out were not sufficient to stop the devastating attacks on that September morning in 2001. The Agency and the rest of the Intelligence Community are now dedicated to doing more and, yes, doing better so that we never experience such an attack again.

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Columbia, Md.: Gen. Hayden was the worst director NSA ever had in it's history. Almost single-handedly, Hayden managed to virtually destroy a fine, productive, and customer-oriented intelligence organization. Why does anyone think he won't do the same to the CIA?

John Brennan: I totally disagree with you. Mike Hayden made a number of very important changes at the Fort. Did he make everyone happy in the process? No. But strong and innovative leaders never do.

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Anonymous: Rumsfeld told CIA (ret.) Ray McGovern that he was not in the intelligence business. I then read he controls 80% of the intelligence budget. Is this Orwellian double-speak, or what?

John Brennan: You will need to ask the SecDef what he meant by his answer. From my perspective, DoD is very much in the intelligence business....has been for a long time and will be forever and a day.

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Princeton, N.J.: Surely the fact that Hayden was deeply involved in a program most legal scholars believe to be illegal, the fact that he does not understand the fourth amendment, and the fact he has little experience in HUMANIT makes him the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John Brennan: Sorry, but I believe he is the right person at the right time. he probably has a better sense of HUMINT than virtually anyone else who has been appointed to head up the CIA. He has lived and breathed the interaction between HUMINT and SIGINT over the last half dozen years. In fact, I would argue that he will come to the job with a far better appreciation of 21st century HUMINT than did Porter Goss, a case officer from the early 1960s.

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Columbia, S.C.: What, in your opinion, will be the major differences between Hayden's position at the NSA and his new position at CIA? How do you think his stint at the NSA prepared him (or didn't prepare him) for dealing with issues and problems at the CIA? Also, isn't the NSA a civilian (or part civilian) agency - making these comments about military and civilian not very important?

John Brennan: NSA falls within the Department of Defense. It is referred to as a "Combat Support Agency." Mike NSA experience and his experience as DDNI gives him outstanding insight to the HUMINT world and the role that the CIA needs to play in the future.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Brennan,

The CIA seems to be fairly open about the fact that it is serious about hiring new recruits -- more specifically, it is looking to hire more and more young people in an effort to replace those who have left, while at the same time augmenting the already impressive human capital at the Agency.

With that in mind, what kind of advice do you have for people who are interested in joining the Agency, but usually wouldn't have been recruited through the usual channels (i.e. military, DoD, etc.)?

John Brennan: I applied to the CIA in the late 1970s by replying to an add in the NYTimes. I had an absolutely wonderful career, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. Public service, in my mind, is something that every U.S. citizen should partake in at some point in their lives. Working for the CIA is an excellent way to contribute to our nation's security. I believe in the CIA's future, especially if Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes will be the residents on the 7th floor at Langley.

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Tampa, Fla.: I understand Hayden's expertise is electronic measures. But I also understand the CIA's greatest weakness in human intelligence, especially in the Islamic world. So why appoint an e-spy and not someone with real expertise in human intelligence?

John Brennan: Steve Kappes, widely expected to be Mike's deputy once confirmed, is one of the most outstanding HUMINT experts in the world. The combination of Hayden and Kappes, in my view, will be a home run for the Agency and for the country.

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Arlington, Va.: How can General Hayden -- assuming he becomes the new CIA chief -- win the support of his troops while still shedding some of the Agency's traditional roles and responsibilities to the new structure -- including the part you used to run the NCTC?

John Brennan: There are necessary changes in the Intelligence Community that CIA needs to accept and adapt to. The NCTC is now, by statute, the government entity with "primary" responsibility for terrorism analysis. However, CIA's CTC will continue to be the premier government component prosecuting the global campaign against al-Qa'ida and other terrorist organizations. Mike Hayden and John Negroponte need to find the right balance in the community of roles and responsibilities on counterterrorism and the myriad other substantive issues of importance to national security.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What is the substance behind the criticism that Gen. Hayden's appointment as DCI would represent too much military and DoD control of intelligence? Is it mostly political rhetoric, and code for "we just don't like Hayden?" And, beyond symbolism, what would Hayden gain from retiring from active Air Force duty should the Senate confirm him as DCI?

John Brennan: There is concern about DoD's growing role in intelligence matters, some of which has taken place at CIA expense. I share those concerns. Thus, some people are concerned that "General" Hayden will accelerate this trend. I disagree. Mike has stood up to the Pentagon's brass on many occasions, and he will do so when he takes over at CIA. Symbolically, it might make some sense for Mike to retire from active duty Air Force after he is confirmed. One final point. I find it absolutely absurd that some members of Congress say that, regardless of whether Mike takes off his uniform, his exemplary 35-year military record disqualifies him for the CIA job. That is an absurd argument that all members of the armed forces should resent.

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Anonymous: General Hayden is obviously devoted to the war on terror, and to the President. What disturbs me is his disregard for the Constitution. Considering Bush's declaration that he is above the laws of the land, do you think our leaders are rudderless? I fear that the Constitution is being besmirched, and Hayden is in on it. Your opinion?

John Brennan: Mike has been dedicated to defending the Constitution throughout his professional career. The program to which you are alluding is a complicated one and one with which I am intimately familiar. I will just say that my experience was that Mike performed his NSA responsibilities with professionalism and integrity.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Has the CIA become so closely tied to politics that in its present organization form it is becoming ineffective in objective data collection?

John Brennan: I am concerned about attempts over the past several years to "politicize" intelligence. It is quite unfortunate. I believe that the CIA post, and the position of Director of national Intelligence, need to be term 5-year assignments, so that they can be taken out of the cycle of political appointments. There is an absolute need for independence, integrity, and objectivity in the senior ranks of our Intelligence Community.

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Herndon, Va.: How will the loss of General Hayden from the DNI's staff affect that new organization? Wasn't Gen. Hayden charged with running the DNI's day-to-day operations?

John Brennan: Mike departure will be felt, and John Negroponte will need to select an able replacement. There is still much "flux" in the Office of the DNI and a lot of uncertainty about its role and mission in the Intelligence Community of the future. These uncertainties need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: I am no fan of this administration but I think the Senate would be wise to get General Hayden confirmed and get on with the business of improving our intel capabilities. What did you make of General Hayden's response to a question on the Fourth Amendment in front of the National Press Club when he seemed to dismiss the "probable cause" standard for search warrants? It made me uncomfortable but I still think he needs to be confirmed quickly.

John Brennan: Mike is capable of giving a strong answer to questions related to the Fourth Amendment and U.S. intelligence collection activities. I am certain he will be well prepared for that question at his upcoming confirmation hearing.

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Fairfax, Va.: Good afternoon, Mr. Brennan. A number of media articles note that, under Director Goss's leadership, the CIA lost a generation of senior officials, including many managers and analysts with specific knowledge related to the Middle East and terrorism. I'd just like to comment that the CIA also lost a large number of well-educated young officers during that time period. Disheartened by the direction the Agency was moving in and the perks showered on certain officials and yes-people, so many of them moved to the private sector. What a loss for the CIA.

John Brennan: I agree. A lot of outstanding young Americans joined CIA after the tragedy of 9/11 with high expectations of their future contribution to our nation's security. It will be up to Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes to reinstill a strong sense of enthusiasm and commitment in the workforce.

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Washington, D.C.: What did America do before it had a CIA?

Spies and spying are as old as civilization, but the CIA has only been around for 60 years. So where were America's intelligence services housed before World War II, and why can we not go back to that system?

John Brennan: The world is much different now than it was in pre-CIA days. Take a look at the advances in technology. There is no going back.

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Falls Church, Va.: While Michael Hayden is obviously qualified for the job of CIA Director, politics were also involved in this choice. Since Hayden has been working under Negroponte, do you think his selection is intended to force the CIA to "get in line" with the new order of things under the DNI?

John Brennan: I think that there is an effort underway to get the CIA to adapt to the new realities of the Intelligence Community. The CIA has resisted many of these changes, which has been a problem. It is time to move forward.

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Vienna, Austria: What is your opinion about the possibility of more former officers such as Kappes returning to the Agency if the Hayden appointment is viewed favorably within the former and current officer ranks?

John Brennan: I think that some Agency officers who departed may be enticed to return. But it also is a time to bring in new blood, and I think that is where Hayden and Kappes will focus their efforts.

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Vancouver, Wash.: Hello John Brennan.

I was wondering if you think Hayden will be confirmed? Because both Dems and Repub's are opposing his nomination.

John Brennan: I hope--and believe--that Mike Hayden will be confirmed. The confirmation hearing will probably have its difficult moments, mainly because of the many difficult intelligence issues that have swirled about over the past several years, but Mike Hayden's competence will win the day.

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Brookville, N.Y.: Promotions above two-stars are temporary and retirements above two stars are subject to approval. If Gen Hayden were to serve as CIA Director while on active duty, would SecDef, SecAF. or AF Chief of Staff be able to thwart Gen Hayden's eventual request to retire at four stars and thus be able to influence his conduct at CIA?

John Brennan: I don't know the answer to your question, but I do not believe Mike Hayden will allow anyone to influence his actions or conduct inappropriately. He has too much integrity to let that ever happen.

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Reston, Va.: Will CIA personnel be perturbed that President Bush did not tap someone with more HUMINT experience, and would they be justified in that anger?

John Brennan: I think most Agency officers are simply looking for a strong leader who will be able to chart their future in the Intelligence Community. Mike Hayden is a charismatic, personable, and smart person who will be able to bond with the Agency's workforce.

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Reston, Va.: Why does the DIA come under DCI? It's in the Defense Dept. and Rumsfeld seems to want to keep as much power over intelligence as he can.

John Brennan: The DIA falls within the Department of Defense but its intelligence function falls under the purview of the DNI. So, you may ask, who is in charge and controls its resources and mission? Good question, as command authority is unresolved in legislation and in practice.

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Tallahassee, Fla.: Does the CIA mostly recruit spies among the civilian population or former military men and women? Is there any shift in recruiting tactics post Sept. 11?

John Brennan: "Spies" is the term used for the individuals that CIA case officers recruit to gather intelligence. The CIA will recruit spies wherever they may prove useful and where it is consistent with U.S. law. The Agency recruits U.S. citizens into the Agency's workforce from universities, the military, the business community, etc....

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Boston, Mass.: Thank you for participating in this chat and offering an informed defense of Hayden. However, I would hope that you would admit that he made a real error when he dismissed a reporter's claim that the 4th amendment requires probable cause (which it does), saying "believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth".

A momentary lapse, I would hope, but a little scary.

John Brennan: Well, I wouldn't disagree with Hayden remark that NSA officers are quite familiar with the Fourth Amendment, as they are. Could his explanation been better? yes, and I hope he follows up on it in future opportunities, of which there will be many.

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Vienna, Va.: I don't think the problem regarding employee moral is so much that he is a "military man", but more that he has never worked for the CIA. For those of us who see it more as a place of employment, as others may see their own private companies, it is discouraging. Joe Public may always think that the CIA is in need of restructuring, but the constant restructuring of this agency, which only gets credit for the things that go wrong, is creating a bureaucracy as problematic as the problems they are trying to fix.

John Brennan: I couldn't agree with you more that the Agency has undergone very unfortunate turmoil over the past several years due to restructuring and new legislation that, in my view, is flawed due to its ambiguities and lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities.

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Baltimore, Md.: I frequently hear grumbling that Negroponte sends exactly the wrong message to most of the intel community by using the title "Ambassador," though he is obviously entitled to use that title. I often wonder if he's aware of these discussions behind his back...

What advice would you give to General Hayden about the use of his rank as title of address within the Agency? Protocol would be to go by "General Hayden," but would their be any benefit to introduce himself (or request that he be introduced in the bubble) as Director or simply by name?

John Brennan: When addressing John Negroponte, I always said "Mr. Director," as I believe one's title should reflect one's current position. If Mike Hayden is confirmed, I will address him as Mr. Director or Director Hayden.

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Washington, D.C.: Since NSA is larger than the CIA and General Hayden is well known, isn't the vacancy at NSA a much bigger issue now?

John Brennan: No vacancy at NSA. Mike Hayden left NSA last year, and Lt. General Keith Alexander is currently serving as DirNSA.

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Anonymous: Greetings, In answer to the question posed about pre-CIA, it was OSS Office of Strategic Services during WWII, and prior to that Naval Intelligence was the primary source of overseas intelligence. In my opinion, the original CIA charter has been abused by including covert operations, which has caused most of our problems. The CIA should stick to gathering and analyzing intelligence. YOUR OPINION?

John Brennan: I believe covert action is a VERY important part of the Intelligence Community's arsenal, but it should be used judiciously and selectively. CIA also should be the premier agency for HUMINT. A debate is underway in the Community as to whether the all-source analytic function should remain at CIA or go elsewhere. It's a worthwhile debate.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello John,

Some ex-CIA agents that I have met have said things along the lines of "just because you wouldn't do it doesn't mean others won't" and implied that the CIA has done things that we, lowly, ordinary Americans would be shocked to discover. Hiring a thug to take someone out, for example.

Without giving anything away, and in the most general sense, for the CIA, is EVERYTHING on the table? Or are there some things even the CIA won't get involved with?

Thank you.

John Brennan: Let me just say that I believe Agency actions, at all times and in all instances, should comport with our values as a country. that is why I am an advocate of an open discourse on the standards of treatment of individuals captured/detained by the U.S. and suspected of involvement in terrorism as well as on what types of collection activities, including those involving U.S. citizens, should be allowed. Along these lines, I do not believe our Congressional oversight committees have fulfilled their responsibilities to ensure that such debate takes place.

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Richmond, Va.: Why do you think that Porter Goss's tenure was as unsuccessful as it was? I thought when he was nominated he seemed to be a good candidate for DCI 'on paper'. Former CIA case officer with experience on Congressional oversight of the agency looked like a good combination.

John Brennan: Porter Goss has been a dedicated public servant for many decades, and he tried to make the Agency a better place. Unfortunately, Director Goss surrounded himself with people who were not up to the task of shaping the Agency's future, and the Agency and the country suffered as a result.

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Richmond, Va.: I assume that if General Hayden is confirmed and still remains on active duty in the Air Force that he will somehow be outside the normal Pentagon chain of command as DCIA? I.e. the SecDef won't be able to give him an order to execute as DCIA, correct?

John Brennan: The D/CIA should never be in a position of taking any order from the SecDef, and that will need to be made clear whether or not Mike Hayden remains an Air Force general or not.

That's about it for now. Thanks for the opportunity to address your questions about the Agency's future. As you probably have discerned, I am a big fan of Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes, and I believe they can do great things at the Agency. As a critic of other actions by the Administration in the intelligence arena, I believe the appointments may be harbingers of more thoughtful decisions in the future. I hope so, as our country needs a strong Intelligence Community and a strong CIA.

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washingtonpost.com: Thank you all for joining us today.

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