Friday, May 12, 2006

General Hayden and the CIA

There’s been the usual brouhaha in Washington since the nomination by the president of General Michael Hayden to be the CIA director – the reason: (gasp) Hayden is in the military. Notwithstanding the fact that six of the 19 CIA directors who have served since the establishment of the agency in 1946 have been members of the military, the oohs and aahs by democrats in the main but some republicans, as well, have been occasioned by the thinking that the CIA is a civilian agency and should not be run by a military person. Carrying this logic further, one might conclude that the Department of Defense is a military agency and should not be run by a civilian, but it is always headed by a civilian, Donald Rumsfeld currently, and the thought that the DoD would ever be run by a GI is…well, unthinkable. So…go figure. Obviously, if it’s okay for a civilian to run the DoD, it’s just as okay for the CIA to be run by a military person…probably better that way, since the two agencies are entwined strategically in the matter of protecting the country.

Hayden comes with credentials that could hardly be equaled, much less surpassed by anyone in the nation, in or out of government. Even though his military career in the Air Force has been in the field of intelligence, he has functioned in the civilian side, as well. Indeed, he has served as the director of the National Security Agency, one of the most important jobs, civilian or otherwise, in the nation. Ironically, when he was nominated last year for the job of Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, he was introduced to the Intelligence Committee in the Senate by Democrat Senator Barbara Mikulski, a member of the committee then and now. This is a part of a press release from the senator’s office of 14 April 2005:

“General Hayden’s most impressive accomplishment is his leadership of NSA at a critical time in the Agency’s history. His tenure there has been transformational. He inherited an agency that needed to be changed: from analogue to digital and from Cold War orientation to looking at multiple threats, and that change needed to happen at breathtaking speed. General Hayden led NSA through serious technological crisis in 2000, he streamlined the organization and made it more responsive, he looked for the best people and the best ideas while recognizing the value of his employees and turning to private sector when necessary to get cutting edge technology.

“At the NSA, General Hayden has adapted strategy to keep pace with rapid advances in global communications, demystified the Agency without declassifying activities, provided a more public face for NSA mission and built support among American people. Members of this committee are well aware of the historic accomplishments of NSA and the future challenges the agency must confront, including: exploding volume of global communication and increasing sophistication of our enemies’ ability to deny us information.”

These two paragraphs are only part of a description by Mikulski that made Hayden practically an oracle in the intelligence community. She ran down a list of his achievements in postings/operations throughout this country and the world that gave notice of a person eminently well qualified to head any intelligence operation. She ended the press release with this sentence: “I heartily endorse the nomination of Lt. Gen. Hayden as Principal Deputy DNI.” Therein may lie the rub. Mikulski is doubtlessly caught on the horns of a dilemma. As a democrat member of the Intelligence Committee, headed by Republican Pat Roberts, with Democrat Jay Rockefeller as ranking member for the democrats, she must make up her mind if what she said a year ago still stands. She sits with democrats Carl Levin, who can be expected to be against anyone nominated by the president; Diane Feinstein, no friend of the administration; and pit bull Russ Feingold, whose most recent claim to fame was his silly attempt to get the Senate to censure the president. Some senators on the Judiciary Committee didn’t even show up for the hearing on the censure resolution…the rest, except Chairman Specter and to a lesser extent Vice Chairman Leahy, stayed only the few minutes necessary to get in on the act.

Feingold’s latest gripe has to do with the “foreign-end wiretap-program” that was largely engineered by Hayden while he was at NSA and explained to the ranking members of the Senate and House committees on intelligence, as the program progressed…without any exceptions taken to it at any time. This quote appeared in a release from Feingold’s office earlier this year: “The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law and then misleading the country about its existence and its legality. The President’s actions, as well as his misleading statements to both Congress and the public about the program, demand a serious response. If Congress does not censure the President, we will be tacitly condoning his actions, and undermining both the separation of powers and the rule of law.” Since Rockefeller was in on those briefings, one wonders if Feingold thinks the ranking member’s elevator doesn’t reach the top floor. Ah…well, Feingold and Feinstein also sit on the Judiciary Committee and recently watched as they and their democrat colleagues failed to stop either John Roberts or Sam Alito being confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The hearings on the Hayden nomination should be interesting, not least because the wiretapping issue was front and center in the hearings regarding Alito earlier this year. The program was probed to death at that time, though its detractors constantly rail that it’s somehow illegal. Actually, it’s an “inside the beltway issue,” anyway. Most Americans, if they’re aware of this effort, in the first place, seem to give it little thought, realizing that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear…even if a mistake is made. So far, no one has stepped forward to allege such mistake, though the program has been in place for some time. As the architect of this new method of surveillance, critical now when time is a vital issue militating against the red tape required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in monitoring calls suspected to involve vital information relative to public saftety, Hayden is the ideal choice to head the CIA.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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