- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

President Bush yesterday nominated Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden to be the new director of the CIA, embracing a fight with Capitol Hill critics of Mr. Bush’s program of wiretapping terrorists and military control of intelligence.

Mr. Bush said Gen. Hayden, currently the deputy director of national intelligence and former head of the National Security Agency (NSA), is “supremely qualified” for the top CIA position.

“In Mike Hayden, the men and women of the CIA will have a strong leader who will support them,” Mr. Bush said. “He will ensure they have the resources they need to do their jobs. He will enforce the secrecy and accountability that are critical to the security of the American people.”

Gen. Hayden will be the subject of a hearing before the Senate intelligence committee, where Republicans and Democrats alike said he will face questions about whether an active-duty military officer should run the top civilian spy agency.

As the administration’s chief spokesman defending the terrorist-wiretapping program, members of both parties said, he also will have to answer for his role in that operation and whether the administration erred by not telling Congress more about it.

Administration officials spent the past few days laying the groundwork for Gen. Hayden’s nomination, and by yesterday, the intensely critical comments over the weekend gave way to more cautious concerns and open praise.

Seeking to lock up more support, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte told reporters twice yesterday that the top candidate for the deputy position at CIA was Stephen Kappes, the former deputy director of operations at the CIA who is popular among lawmakers as well as CIA employees.

Mr. Negroponte portrayed the two nominees as a package, although he said the administration wanted to resolve the director’s position first. Democrats said Mr. Kappes’ appointment would help reassure political critics and CIA employees.

Gen. Hayden would replace Porter J. Goss, who resigned Friday after butting heads with Gen. Hayden and Mr. Negroponte over the CIA’s changing role in intelligence-gathering. Mr. Kappes was an early casualty in Mr. Goss’ shake-up at the CIA.

Gen. Hayden won an important supporter yesterday in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, who can help shepherd the nominee through the confirmation process. And unlike many other voices, Mr. Frist saw Mr. Hayden’s leadership in wiretapping suspected terrorists as a plus for the nominee.

“He’s run one of the most important programs in the war on terror, a key effort to try to make America safer,” Mr. Frist said. “I look forward to his prompt confirmation by the Senate.”

Republicans who had voiced doubts about Gen. Hayden over the weekend were mostly silent yesterday, but Democrats said the nomination battle will be a chance to test both the administration and the Senate intelligence committee.

“Time and again, this committee has shown itself more committed to protecting the White House than to dealing with the disarray in our intelligence community,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said that as a military officer, Gen. Hayden could “exacerbate concern among CIA professionals in the field about a [Defense Department] takeover of intelligence.”

Seven military officers have run the CIA since 1946.

“If being a general is a disqualification for a top-level government position, we would not have had Colin Powell as secretary of state and we would be excluding some of the most extraordinary and competent individuals in our country,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican.

Some lawmakers said Gen. Hayden could answer the questions by resigning from the military, but Mr. Negroponte yesterday said he does not anticipate that happening.

The departure of the current deputy director, Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland III, would meet the legal requirement that a civilian occupy one of the top two CIA posts.

Sen. Mike DeWine said Gen. Hayden’s military background doesn’t concern him because there is “no indication” Gen. Hayden would “come down on the side of the Pentagon in turf battles.”

“He has a good record at the NSA of making changes over there and clearly has the confidence of the president,” said Mr. DeWine, Ohio Republican and a member of the intelligence committee. “We want to hear what his vision is and how the CIA is transformed in the new era that we live in.”

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