Even before President Bush officially announced his nominee to replace departed Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss on Monday morning, the candidate — four-star Air Force General Michael Hayden — had already drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
Critics are concerned that Hayden, a 35-year Air Force veteran, is too closely associated with the president's controversial domestic eavesdropping program — which he has vocally supported — because of his former job overseeing the program as the head of the National Security Agency. There are also worries about a general with such close ties to the military running the country's intelligence agency.
Hayden, 61, has been one of the most outspoken and public defenders of the president's secret spying program, which has drawn criticism over concerns that it violates civil rights (see "Eavesdropping Program Broader Than Bush Suggested; Congress To Investigate").
In addition to serving as head of the NSA from 1999 to 2005, Hayden is a top deputy to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who is believed to have been one of the driving forces behind Goss' surprising resignation on Friday, after just two years on the job. Negroponte oversees the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies; if approved, Hayden would become the country's second ranking intelligence officer.
Among those protesting the nomination of Hayden was Pete Hoekstra, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, who voiced concern on Sunday that Hayden's military background could further diminish the CIA's post-9/11 role and could increase the Pentagon's influence over U.S. intelligence operations, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"This is one more step in the [Defense Department's] taking over the intelligence community," Hoekstra said. "I do believe he's the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time." Fellow Republican Saxby Chambliss — who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will hold hearings on Hayden's nomination — agreed with Hoekstra. "The fact that [Hayden] is part of the military today would be a problem," Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."
Others defended Hayden as an independent thinker who would not be overly influenced by his military role. Republican Senator John McCain said Hayden is "really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force officer," on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, said on ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday (May 8) that "the military background is in many ways a plus. ... But make no mistake, when he steps in, he will not be reporting to [Secretary of Defense] Don Rumsfeld."
Since the post was created more than 60 years ago, six of the 19 CIA directors to date have been active military officers.
Hayden, currently the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in the armed forces, is known as a specialist in technical intelligence systems like spy satellites. He served on the National Security Council from 1989-1991 during the first Bush administration and has spent time on assignment in Bulgaria, South Korea and Germany.
President Bush heaped praise on Hayden during Monday morning's announcement. "Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position," Bush said. "I've come to know him well as our nation's first deputy director of national intelligence. In that position, he's worked closely with our director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, to reform America's intelligence capabilities to meet the threats of a new century."
The president pointed out Hayden's 20 years of intelligence experience, including a stint as commander of the Air Intelligence Agency, director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center and deputy chief of staff of United States and U.N. forces in Korea.
"Mike knows our intelligence community from the ground up," Bush said. "He has been both a provider and a consumer of intelligence. He's overseen the development of both human and technological intelligence. He has demonstrated an ability to adapt our intelligence services to the new challenges in the war on terror."
Hayden has admitted in the past that while head of the NSA his agency deserved some of the blame for the intelligence blunders associated with the September 11 terror attacks. In accepting the nomination, he said, "[The American intelligence operation] is simply too important not to get absolutely right."