- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Two Republicans who have questioned whether Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden should become director of the Central Intelligence Agency yesterday heaped praise on outgoing Director Porter J. Goss.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Sen. Saxby Chambliss have said Gen. Hayden’s military service is troubling because the CIA is a civilian agency. Both men are friends of Mr. Goss, a former congressman who abruptly resigned last week from the CIA top post.

Gen. Hayden spent most of yesterday on Capitol Hill, meeting with the senators who control his fate with confirmation hearings. Mr. Goss was on the Hill to receive the Congressional Distinguished Service Award.

Mr. Goss is a “good soldier” who was asked to take control of the CIA when it needed “correcting,” said Mr. Chambliss, Georgia Republican.

“If you look in Webster’s Dictionary under Porter Goss, you will see integrity, perseverance, public service and a commitment to freedom,” he said.

Mr. Chambliss serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is responsible for the Hayden confirmation hearings that begin next week. He said Gen. Hayden’s background is a “major problem.”

Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, echoed those concerns this week and said the nomination surprised him. “I don’t know anything about him,” Mr. Hastert said.

Mr. Goss, on the other hand, was a key adviser to the speaker in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Mr. Hastert said yesterday.

“He was always there. I trusted his advice then and I trust it today,” Mr. Hastert said of the Florida Republican. “As he was preparing to retire from the House, the president called upon him to do a difficult task at a difficult time. He did that with distinction and honor.”

Gen. Hayden was Mr. Goss’ top deputy at the CIA, and the two butted heads over the CIA’s changing role in intelligence-gathering during Mr. Goss’ tenure at the agency, which was less than two years. Gen. Hayden crafted the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program as head of the National Security Agency, and Democratic senators plan to use the hearings to criticize the program.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, discussed eavesdropping laws with Gen. Hayden yesterday.

Gen. Hayden indicated that he could support a congressional debate on modifying that law, Mr. Durbin said.

Mr. Durbin said the nominee did not say he would support it, but told him: “With all the publicity that has surrounded this program, we may be closer to the possibility of asking for a change in [the law].”

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat and an intelligence panel member, described Gen. Hayden as a “competent professional.”

But she said, “there are legitimate questions related to the surveillance and also will he be an independent voice rather than what we had with, you know, Mr. ‘Slam Dunk,’” a reference to George J. Tenet, the CIA director who said the case for finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a “slam dunk.”

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, told reporters that Gen. Hayden is likely to be confirmed by the committee and full Senate. Gen. Hayden also received the general support of Republican panel members Sens. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Christopher S. Bond of Missouri.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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