Saturday, May 06, 2006

You Read it Here First

Better late than never, I suppose. Time magazine reported late last night that General Michael Hayden is expected to be named the new CIA Director on Monday. Hayden, who currently serves as Deputy Director of National Intelligence (DDNI), and is a former head of the National Security Agency (NSA), has been praised for his ability to reform intelligence organizations, and work across agency lines.

Time, Ed Driscoll and others have warned that Hayden's nomination is likely to re-ignite the Congressional "food fight" over the NSA's domestic surveillance program, which was expanded after 9-11, when General Hayden was serving as the agency's director. I disagree. There may be a few sharp questions in his confirmation hearings, but any effort to reject Hayden on the basis of the NSA program will fail, and fail quickly. Two reasons: first, we quickly learned after the program became "public," that Congress was very much in the loop; General Hayden or his deputies had briefed key members of the intelligence committee on a regular basis, and no one raised a peep until The New York Times ran its story. Secondly, all available evidence indicates that the program was run by the letter of the law, and finally, the surveillance effort had produced significant results.

It's hard to argue against a candidate who turned around the nation's largest spy agency (the NSA), even earning praise from the agency's harshest critics; reformed the SIGINT community to meet the challenges of cell phone technology, the internet and publicly-available encryption, and helped establish the DNI. Hayden's confirmation hearings may not be a slam dunk, but it will be pretty close. Perhaps the real question regarding Hayden's likely appointment is his military status. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested last night that a "military candidate" for CIA director could retire from active duty after confirmation, ensuring continued "civilian" control of the agency. Ironically, the first three DCIs were all active-duty military officers, and two retired officers have also run the CIA. General Hayden recently received his fourth star, but doesn't have enough time in grade to retire as a full general. I'm guessing President Bush can take care of that problem, if Hayden elects to retire before assuming control of the CIA.

I'm sure the folks at Time are congratulating themselves on their little scoop. But remember: we first identified Hayden as the next CIA director on Friday morning, about 12 hours before the magazine reached the same conclusion. Once again, the blogsphere runs circles around the drive-by media.

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