Architect of "Warrantless-Wiretapping" program to be named CIA Direcor
Administration aids say Bush will name Hayden, major force behind the new warrant-free domestic wiretapping and surveilance program, tomorrow as his choice to succeed CIA Director Goss.
Likely CIA pick backed eavesdropping
His nomination may renew fight
By Peter Baker, Washington Post | May 7, 2006
WASHINGTON -- The nomination of General Michael V. Hayden to take over the CIA could trigger a fresh battle over the secret warrantless surveillance program he oversaw on behalf of President Bush, a debate that could help shape the fall midterm congressional elections, officials in both parties said yesterday.
Barring a change of heart, administration aides said, Bush will name Hayden tomorrow as his choice to succeed CIA Director Porter Goss, who resigned under pressure Friday.
Hayden, 61, is an Air Force general, former director of the National Security Agency, and current deputy director of national intelligence. If he gets the job, a military officer would be in charge of every major US spy agency.
Hayden has become the most forceful defender of Bush's eavesdropping program since its disclosure in December.
Rather than steer away from a Hayden nomination because of the controversy, the White House seems ready for a new fight over it, convinced that it has public support and would leave Democrats opposing his confirmation at risk of looking weak on terrorism.
Democrats yesterday began formulating a strategy built around grilling Hayden during hearings, then determining whether any refusal to answer questions provides justification to oppose his confirmation.
''By nominating him, they are looking for a confrontation and forcing the Congress to take sides, so I am troubled by this," said Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, vice chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has a close relationship with Hayden and considers him ''very professional and dedicated."
A senior White House official said Bush did not choose Hayden to pick a fight, but would welcome one. ''We felt that we're in a position on offense," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination has not been made. ''We have no concerns about a public debate over the terrorist surveillance program."
Democrats aren't the only ones expected to use a Hayden nomination to revisit the legality of the surveillance, however. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he may try to hold up Hayden's confirmation if the administration does not provide more information about the eavesdropping.
''I was briefed by General Hayden, and I got virtually no meaningful information," Specter said in an interview. ''Now with Hayden up . . . this gives us an opportunity to ask these questions and insist on some answers if the Senate is of a mind to deny confirmation."
Hayden has enjoyed a strong reputation among lawmakers from both parties and never encountered confirmation trouble in the past, but his selection also would raise questions about the rising military influence over US intelligence and about his ability to be independent from Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
If he is confirmed, Hayden would face the challenge of rebuilding an agency that has gone through a tumultuous period, first by failing to prevent the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then by misjudging Iraq's weapons program, and most recently by enduring the break-the-china management of Goss, who drove many veterans out of Langley.
Hayden's appointment would occur at a critical time for US intelligence; the White House is ratcheting up pressure on Iran to abandon its aspirations for nuclear weapons.
Bush has acknowledged that he faces a serious credibility problem in convincing the American public and the world that his intelligence on Iran is reliable.
Goss stepped down after John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, told him in April to leave by May. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday that it was ''categorically untrue" that Goss lost Bush's confidence almost from the start of his 18-month tenure, but neither Goss nor the White House offered a public explanation.
In recent days, Goss also came to face the possibility that a top CIA officer could become entangled in a congressional bribery scandal.
Kyle Dustin Foggo, whom Goss plucked from the intelligence bureaucracy to be the agency's third-highest official, has become ensnared in a federal investigation into a bribery scandal, which has resulted in the imprisonment of former representative Randy ''Duke" Cunningham, Republican of California.
The FBI is now investigating the possible use of prostitutes at parties hosted by defense contractor Brent Wilkes and attended by CIA officials and legislators. Wilkes is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case. Foggo is among those who allegedly attended his parties.
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