- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden was confirmed as the next CIA director yesterday after the Senate overwhelmingly cleared his nomination.

The four-star general’s nomination had come under scrutiny for the warrantless surveillance program he helped to design after the September 11 attacks as the director of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Gen. Hayden — who has been the top deputy to National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte for just more than year — replaces CIA Director Porter J. Goss, who resigned May 5.

Fourteen Democrats voted against Gen. Hayden’s nomination yesterday, as did one prominent Republican — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Specter had “no quarrel” with Gen. Hayden himself, but said the Bush administration failed to adequately communicate with Congress about the surveillance program at the NSA.

“In light of what the administration has done on the NSA program, which he headed for many years, I feel constrained to vote ‘no,’” Mr. Specter said, complaining that the administration only briefed all of the members of the Senate intelligence committee “in the few days prior to the confirmation hearings on General Hayden.”

Mr. Specter said Congress was forced to press the administration for details on the program, and even then, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales “refused to say anything of substance” about it when he testified before Mr. Specter’s panel.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, said he voted “no” yesterday because there are “substantial unanswered questions” about the NSA and its program.

“I don’t know what his role was there,” Mr. Dorgan said. “Those answers don’t appear to be forthcoming.”

Twenty-six Democrats and independent James M. Jeffords of Vermont supported Gen. Hayden’s nomination yesterday, as did 51 Republicans. Five Democrats and two Republicans weren’t present to vote. The final tally was 78-15.

“Winning the war on terror requires that America have the best intelligence possible, and his strong leadership will ensure that we do,” President Bush said after the vote. “General Hayden is a patriot and a dedicated public servant whose broad experience, dedication and expertise make him the right person to lead the CIA at this critical time.”

Testifying before the intelligence committee earlier this month, Gen. Hayden defended the surveillance program, saying it could have detected two of the September 11 hijackers and that it doesn’t spy on ordinary citizens.

Most senators said he’s the best selection to take the reins at the CIA.

“With 20 years of experience in the intelligence community, he is the right man for the job,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. “He’s made clear his interest in an open and honest relationship with Congress.”

But Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said Gen. Hayden isn’t the best person for the job at all.

“It’s not just that he comes from [Defense] Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, but because he was the administration’s principal spokesperson and defender of an illegal domestic spying program,” Mr. Kerry said, after voting against the nomination.

While supportive of the nominee, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, criticized the administration.

Mr. Reid praised Gen. Hayden’s record and said he was convinced by a private meeting the two had that the general “understands and respects the role of Congress” on national security issues.

“I am hopeful General Hayden will provide the CIA the kind of nonpartisan leadership it has sorely lacked for the past several years,” he said. “And I am also hopeful that this nomination signifies that the Bush administration has recognized, finally, that professionals — not partisans — should be put in charge of national security.”

Also yesterday, the Senate confirmed:

• R. David Paulison as the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Mr. Paulison has served as acting FEMA director since September, taking over the beleaguered agency from Michael D. Brown two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

• Rob Portman as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Portman, the former U.S. trade representative, replaces Joshua B. Bolten, now the White House chief of staff.

• Dirk Kempthorne as interior secretary. The two-term Idaho governor and former Republican senator replaces Gale A. Norton. Mr. Kempthorne was sworn in yesterday by Mr. Bolten during a brief ceremony in the Oval Office, with Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on hand.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide