CIA Nominee Sparks Confirmation Fight

President Bush listens to Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, left, speak after he announced Hayden as his choice to replace outgoing CIA Director Porter Goss, Monday, May 8, 2006, in the Oval Office at the White House. AP

President Bush's nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA chief ignited a confirmation fight Monday over the intelligence veteran's ties to the controversial eavesdropping program and his ability to be independent from the military establishment.

With Hayden at his side, Mr. Bush urged senators to promptly approve the former National Security Agency head, who one year ago was confirmed unanimously to be the nation's first deputy director of national intelligence.

"Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position," Mr. Bush said in the Oval Office. "He knows the intelligence community from the ground up."

CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that Hayden's credentials aren't in question, but there is growing concern that the Pentagon already controls too much of the nation's intelligence apparatus, with 80 percent of intelligence funding in Pentagon hands.

A senior White House official told CBS News that Hayden would consider retiring if that were to allay concerns about an active duty military officer running the CIA.

CIA Director Porter Goss announced his resignation last week after tussling with Hayden and his boss, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, about the agency's autonomy and direction.

Even before Hayden's nomination became official, Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers had begun questioning whether he was the right choice to head the spy agency.

Hayden is credited with designing the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. Disclosure of the program late last year sparked an intense civil-liberties debate over whether the president can order the monitoring of international calls and e-mails in the U.S. without court warrants.

California Rep. Jane Harman, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, joined colleagues in saying Hayden had become part the "White House spin machine" though intelligence professionals typically eschew partisan politics.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has said that he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the eavesdropping program, and he has not ruled out holding up the nomination in the meantime.

It will fall to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to keep order on the panel as it considers Hayden's confirmation. But even Roberts has acknowledged there is concern about someone from the military heading the CIA. Several Republicans, including House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., have called Hayden's military background troublesome in this case.

"I don't know anybody in Washington who has more expertise on intelligence than the general," Roberts told CBS News. "But there have been some senators who have expressed some concerns so I'll reserve judgment on that."

"I think the most important thing is that General Hayden is an independent thinker," said CBS News Military Analyst Col. Mitch Mitchell, Ret. "He understands big picture items. He's been put in positions of great trust and has proven himself just tremendously, not only with the National Security Agency but under Mr. Negroponte, not an easy guy to work for."

Hayden, 61, would be the seventh military officer to head the CIA since 1946. But his nomination comes at a time when lawmakers are particularly concerned about the influence of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
  • James Klatell

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