The president's pick for the CIA

The president will nominate his point man on warrantless spying to head the CIA.


Tim Grieve
May 8, 2006 5:24PM (UTC)

Porter Goss said over the weekend that the reason for his resignation from the CIA is "just one of those mysteries." The identity of his would-be replacement isn't. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley confirmed this morning that the president will nominate Gen. Michael Hayden to serve as the new director of the CIA.

Members of Congress from both parties are expressing doubts about the nomination even before it's made official. "I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra tells Fox News. Hoekstra is opposed to having a "military person" leading the CIA, a view shared to varying degrees by Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, among others.

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Although Donald Rumsfeld said last week that he's "not in the intelligence business," the fact is that the Pentagon controls about 80 percent of the nation's intelligence budget. If the president is allowed to place a military man in charge of the civilian CIA, Biden warned that those who work at the agency ought to worry about being "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."

There's reason for the rest of us to worry, too. Hayden was the point man on the president's warrantless spying program, and in that role he showed something less than a clear appreciation for -- or even an understanding of -- the laws that protect American citizens from government intrusion. Defending the warrantless spying program back in January, Hayden said that employees at the NSA were experts in the Fourth Amendment, that it doesn't mention "probable cause," and that it sets a "reasonableness" standard for government searches. In fact, the Fourth Amendment says that "no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause," a standard Hayden admitted wasn't used in the Bush administration's warrantless spying program.

One might think the president would be wary about giving the Senate -- in the form of Hayden's confirmation hearing -- another shot at the warrantless spying program just months before the midterm elections; as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter said over the weekend, Hayden's confirmation hearing could be a source of "leverage" if the Senate is "of a mind to assert its constitutional prerogatives." But the political calculus works in reverse at the White House; earlier this year, Karl Rove made it clear that he thinks warrantless spying is a winner for the president and one that Republicans can ride to victory again.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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