May 08, 2006

Spies Like Us

Last Friday afternoon CIA director Porter Goss stepped down from his position—unexpectedly, at least to the media—and blogs on the let and less responsible mainstream media outlets were quick to surmise an embarrassing scandal must be the proximate cause of his departure. We now know that Goss stepped down because he butted heads with National Director of Intelligence John Negroponte over the future direction of the CIA.

Later that same afternoon, Negroponte's deputy, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, was put forth as the probable successor to Goss. Within minutes, people seized upon the fact that Hayden was the General in charge of the NSA when a program was put in place by an executive order of President Bush. The program conducted surveillance of specific communications of suspected al Qaeda agents, where one end of the communications was based inside the United States and the other was in a foreign country.

A media-driven controversy has raged since that time, as opponents of the program have called it illegal and some have even pushed for censure or impeachment of the President for issuing the executive order, when in fact, not one of them knows what the order entails.

This morning, President Bush made his nomination of General Hayden official, and thus the controversial NSA intelligence program will be a central point of contention in his confirmation hearings. The fact that Hayden is a military officer being picked to run a civilian agency alarmed some of the more excitable and inept members of Congress, but that sentiment is quickly being dismissed rather quickly, especially in light of the fact that so many military men have run the CIA in the past.

Anonymous blogger and former intelligence officer Spook86 at In From The Cold provided unequivocal support:

"Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position," said Mr. Bush in making the announcement. "He knows intelligence community from the ground up...he has been both a producer and consumer of intelligence." Hayden, the nation's highest-ranking military intelligence officer, appeared with President Bush in the Oval Office, where the nomination was announced.

We agree with the President. Hayden is a superb choice, an exceptionally effective intelligence leader who--if confirmed--can continue needed reforms at the CIA.


If American is serious about reforming the CIA, then General Hayden should have confirmation hearings that focus on genuine intelligence issues, not ill-founded concerns about what uniform he wears to the office. At this juncture in the War on Terror, General Hayden (and the agency) deserve a speedy confirmation process, and a quick up-or-down vote. Hayden is hardly an unknown commodity on Capitol Hill and in the intelligence community; his outstanding record speaks for itself.

Over the weekend and before the nomination was official, I queried a former intelligence officer that worked at the NSA, and asked him several questions about General Hayden.

I asked what he thought of Hayden in general, if there would be friction from within the CIA from having the director of another intelligence agency named to run their organization, and how Hayden would handle the obvious focus of some during the hearings on his implementation of Bush's executive order.

When asked about how the CIA would response to the former NSA Chief, he answered:

I think there will be problems inside CIA with the long-time spooks and Intelligence analysts. [General] Mike [Hayden]'s experience has all been in military Intelligence as a collector of information. NSA and the Central Security Service for the military Intelligence collection operations do not issue Intelligence reports. That is the realm of CIA and DIA. The CIA, for example, has always been in charge of the National Intelligence Estimates. Other agencies and the military NIE reps are there to keep CIA honest, and that has sometimes been difficult...


...[But] we got things done. For just that reason there will be some of the so-called 'elite' in the ranks of the CIA employees who will balk a bit. He should be able to hold his own. Porter Goss surely did.

In regards to the expected questions about the NSA program authorized by President Bush's executive order:

...I know that Bush thinks very highly of him [Hayden], but there are some in Congress who have not been briefed on collection and operations programs - Feingold and Specter - who can give him some problems in hearings. He can handle those little pissants though. Hayden will be grilled by the Intelligence Committee. Not too many pissants there.

Hayden reminds me a lot of another former Director of the NSA, Admiral Noel Gayler. Gayler went on to become a full Admiral and Commander of the Pacific Fleet...


I do hope Hayden gets the nod, and I will be right there for the confirmation hearings, just to see some of the loony Senators make complete fools of themselves - particularly Rockefeller.

While the opinions of two former purported spies are hardly enough to say this is a widespread, consensus viewpoint, it does seem to suggest that Hayden brings with him a reputation that indicates he has the ability to get the tough jobs done, and reforming a bumbling, politically-driven organization back into the nation's premiere civilian intelligence agency might just take a military commander's discipline to accomplish.

It is also very interesting that neither of these intelligence officers thought that the Senate confirmation hearings are going to be too tough for the General, and that the officer I interviewed felt that any Senators questioning Hayden on the NSA case would, "make complete fools of themselves."

This is going to be one interesting confirmation hearing, and if these sources and others can be trusted, Senators looking to attack General Hayden for their own personal gain might very quickly find themselves in well over their heads.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 8, 2006 12:27 PM | TrackBack

I believe the reason the Democrats fall on their swords so often is that they totally under estimate just how crafty GW can be. Other pundits see this whole thing with General Hayden as just one more opportunity for Bush to deliver a sucker punch.

I believe he is looking forward to Senators from both sides of the aisle showing their true colors, and that will give General Hayden a great opportunity to grind them under foot again. He has taken the wind out of their sails before. Surely he is primed to do it again. And Bush knows exactly what this can mean. Karl Rove probably has his strategies all mapped out too.

Too many folks have probably under estimated John Negroponte too. Some may think he is just another career diplomat in the mold of dimwit Joe Wilson, but I am beginning to believe he may just have a far better plan and vision for U.S. Intelligence than anyone imagined.

The Dems really have short memories on some things. Jimmy Carter appointed Admiral Stansfield Turner as CIA Director. Could it be they would like to forget about that because of the damage HE did?

Bush has thrown out the bait. The whoppers he catches in this adventure should be even more fun than catching a 7 1/2-pound Large Mouth Bass.

Posted by: Retired Spy at May 8, 2006 06:46 PM

Sometime after this post, Feingold came out pretty much in favor of Hayden...

Posted by: John Anderson at May 9, 2006 04:27 AM


Of course he did. He's tied his slim Presidential hopes on trying to rally the far left. He hopes he can get Hayden in from of the Senate where he can grill him on the NSA program; killing Hayden's nomination prematurely would hurt Feingold's favorite cause: Feingold.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 9, 2006 06:17 AM