By now, anyone who has been paying attention to the news knows that CIA Director (DCI) Porter Goss resigned his post on Friday. Speculation for the reason for this abrupt turn of events widely vary—from it being part of new White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten’s shake-up to Goss being unhappy with the subordinate role forced upon him by the existence of the Director of National Intelligence position. (The cabinet-level position, designed to coordinate the various military and civilian intelligence agencies under one umbrella, was created last year and is occupied by John Negroponte. As a result of this new layer of management between the executive branch of government and the CIA, the DCI no longer has direct access to the president.)
And, just to add a little prurience to the conjecture, it has been suggested that Goss had some involvement in the scandal surrounding disgraced former Representative Duke Cunningham (R-CA).
Whatever the reason(s) may be for Goss to cut short his
thirteen nineteen-month stint as DCI, word on the street has it that Air Force General Michael Hayden is the Bush Administration’s candidate to take his place. At present, General Hayden is Negroponte’s deputy and, more intriguingly, served as the NSA director from 1999 to 2005. That means that he was the architect for the formerly Top Secret NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program--more disingenuously know as the “domestic wiretap” program—whose cover was so infamously blown by an insider leak to the New York Times.
If the rumors are correct, two issues come to mind: the fact that General Hayden is still on active duty and his top-down knowledge of the specified NSA program.
Were General Hayden to become the DCI, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. As a matter of fact, the very first DCI was an active duty military member, Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter. However, I am inclined to agree with Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) that having a DCI who is under the authority of the Defense Department (and, therefore, the embattled Donald Rumsfeld) would create the appearance of yet another layer of management between the DCI and the president. And with all Hades breaking loose in (and between) both departments, something that this country does not need is an escalation of a turf war to go along with the actual war--especially since those departments are in charge of conducting the latter. (Hoekstra is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.)
HOEKSTRA: Well, we'll have to wait until the president makes an announcement. Obviously, that's his call. I've got a lot of respect for Mike Hayden. I think he's done a very good job in the positions that he's had. He's got a distinguished career.Of course, such a nomination could have its uses. Prospective Senate confirmation hearings for General Hayden will no doubt be quite interesting, not to mention devastating—though not necessarily for the general, the NSA or President Bush. Such a public outing of information on a program which was presumably effective in combating terrorists and had its effectiveness taken away by “the public’s right to know” would serve to strip away the high and mighty hand-wringing which has dogged the program ever since someone in the NSA forgot the contract he/she signed to keep classified information from persons who do not have the proper security clearance nor the ‘need-to-know.’
Bottom line, I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time. We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time.
[CHRIS] WALLACE [of Fox News]: Well, explain that, because there have been, I think, a half dozen military people leading the CIA over the years, I guess most recently, back in the Carter administration, Admiral Stansfield Turner. So this is not unprecedented.
HOEKSTRA: It's not unprecedented. It's a bad time. You know, there's been a tremendous amount of tension between the CIA, Department of Defense, the intelligence community over the last 18 months. It was highlighted in the fact that when we did intelligence reform, the biggest opponent to doing intelligence reform was the Department of Defense.
There's ongoing tensions between this premiere civilian intelligence agency and DOD as we speak. And I think putting a general in charge — regardless of how good Mike is, putting a general in charge is going to send the wrong signal through the agency here in Washington, but also to our agents in the field around the world.
WALLACE: Well, is it your feeling that as an active general that General Hayden would be under the sway of Don Rumsfeld?
HOEKSTRA: I think that clearly will be the perception in the CIA both, again, here in Washington and at the CIA. I don't think you can underestimate the difficulty in rebuilding, reshaping and transforming the Central Intelligence Agency. This is the debate we don't need at this time.
A White House which has something to hide about the Terrorist Surveillance Program wouldn’t nominate a person so intimately knowledgeable of it to go before a champing-at-the-bit Senate. If General Hayden has been cleared to tell all that he knows of the program, it’s safe to assume that he—along with the president—is holding all of the high cards.
To attribute even more guile to the reasoning behind a Hayden nomination, getting the information out on the Terrorist Surveillance Program could be the sole reason for nominating him. Think of it. The nomination happens, all and sundry are in an uproar over the prospect of an active-duty general as DCI for the above-stated reasons. So everyone is tuned in as General Hayden is earnestly
grilled questioned about the “illegal” program. He answers every question, presents newly declassified documents pertaining to the program along with lists of members of both houses of Congress who had been briefed about the particulars of the program and who said nothing about it until the New York Times rendered the program useless. Then he withdraws his nomination.
Last week Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) threatened to support a bill to defund the program if a senate-wide briefing isn’t given by the executive branch. Could it be that the president is “capitulating” to the senator’s threats? The senator should be careful what he asks for.
We’ll see whether he (and his fellows) get it.
(Thanks to Think Progress)