Hayden-Obama briefing stirs speculation

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden flew to Chicago on Tuesday to give a full intelligence briefing to President-elect Barack Obama, The Washington Times has learned.

It was not clear whether Mr. Obama discussed Mr. Hayden’s future as director of the agency in the new administration, but the focus of the private meeting, which also included Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, centered on the state of national security and was considered classified.

Speculation is growing among intelligence experts and officials that Mr. Obama will ask Mr. Hayden to stay on.

Congress Daily reported Tuesday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Sylvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, supported the continuation of Mr. Hayden and Mr. McConnell in their positions.

In an e-mail statement sent to The Times on Friday, Mr. Reyes said recent media reports suggesting “that I believe Directors McConnell and Hayden must be retained in their posts rather than appointing new leadership in the intelligence community” is not accurate.

“In fact, what I stated to Congress Daily and to President-elect Obama is that if the president-elect decides to keep Director McConnell or Director Hayden for a transition period, in order to provide continuity of management of our intelligence operations, I would fully support that decision.”

Mr. Reyes said he has met with Obama transition officials who have sought his advice on the choice of intelligence chiefs.

On Sunday, The Times reported that intelligence officers were rallying support for Mr. Hayden to continue in his post in the Obama administration after John Brennan, a counterterrorism specialist and former director for the National Counterterrorism Center who reportedly was Mr. Obama’s first choice for the CIA post, withdrew his name from consideration in November following criticism from liberal bloggers regarding his support for the Bush administration’s unpopular interrogation, detention and rendition policies.

Brooke Anderson, national security spokeswoman for the Obama transition team, declined to comment Friday about Mr. Hayden.

Mr. Hayden’s role in the warrantless surveillance program as the director of the National Security Agency before his move to the CIA in 2006 was a main topic during his confirmation hearings. Mr. Obama, then a senator, voted against Mr. Hayden’s confirmation. He also has had disagreements with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on issues, including a withdrawal timetable from Iraq, but asked him recently to stay at his post.

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