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Monday, May 08, 2006

 

AP: Bush ignores objections, bulls ahead on general's nomination for CIA

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer -- Monday, 7 minutes ago

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, gestures during an address at the National Press Club in Washington, in this Monday, Jan. 23, 2006 file photo. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)WASHINGTON - Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, left, will be named as the next chief of the CIA, President Bush's national security adviser said Monday, and the White House began battling back against criticism that a military officer would lead the civilian spy agency.

"Mike Hayden is the president's nominee to be the director of the CIA," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said on NBC's "Today" show. "The president believes he is the right person at the right time in the right job, when the Senate confirms him, and we certainly hope it will and will do so promptly."

Recognizing concerns about military leadership of the CIA, a civilian agency, the White House plans to move aside the agency's No. 2 official, Vice Admiral Albert Calland III, who took over as deputy director less than a year ago. Other personnel changes also are likely, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the changes are not ready to announce.

Hadley made the rounds of morning television shows to defend Hayden's selection. "This is a man who has broad experience in the intelligence business," he said.

He said flatly on NBC that Hayden was the choice, although for the most part Hadley talked in terms of defending Hayden as if the nomination already had been announced.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said it was not unprecedented for a military officer to run the CIA and that Hayden would be the fifth CIA chief in uniform. "He has been viewed as a non-comformist and an independent thinker," Bartlett said.

"This is really nothing new ... so there's precedent for it," Hadley said on CBS's "The Early Show." "We don't see any reason to break the precedent. ... The question is not military versus civilian. The question is the best person to do the job."

Asked to what extent a Hayden nomination would get caught up in the controversy over domestic spying by the National Security Agency, Hadley replied, that "any nominee to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency would be asked to answer these questions, and who better to answer these questions than Michael Hayden, who has been overseeing this process and is very conversant with it."

Nevertheless, Hayden's elevation to the CIA helm was running into criticism from members of Congress who voiced concern that a military officer would lead the civilian spy agency.

"I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said on "Fox News Sunday." "We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time."

Hoekstra said having a general in charge of the CIA could create the impression among agents around the world that the agency is under Pentagon control, at a time when the Defense Department and CIA have "ongoing tensions."

If Hayden were nominated and confirmed, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Hoekstra's sentiment was echoed by Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and several Democrats who made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., said Hayden could leave agents with the impression that the CIA has been "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."

Some lawmakers, like Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record) of California, suggested that he might think about resigning his military post if he were going to head the CIA. But Hoekstra and Chambliss were among those who said that wouldn't solve the problem.

"Just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit versus an Air Force uniform, I don't think makes much difference," Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."

Talk of Hayden's possible nomination has reignited the debate over the Bush's administration's domestic surveillance program, which Hayden used to oversee as the former head of the National Security Agency.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the program and did not rule out holding it up until he gets answers. "I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand until I see how the facts evolve," Specter said on Fox.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.


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