White House Official Defends CIA Pick


The White House shot back today against critics from both sides of the aisle who have labeled its pick to lead the CIA the "wrong man" for the job.

President Bush formally introduced Gen. Michael Hayden this morning as his choice to replace Porter Goss as the agency's director.

Democrats and several influential Republicans have said it would be unwise to have a military officer lead the civilian spy agency, but national security advisor Stephen Hadley rejected those complaints.

Hadley said there was "no reason" for Hayden to resign from the Air Force before taking charge of the CIA.

"I would point out there have been several heads of the Central Intelligence Agency who have been military officers. There are officers serving in that agency," Hadley told "Good Morning America."

"The question is not military versus civilian. The question is the best man for that job, and Mike Hayden really has that capacity. He's run a big organization. He knows how to transform a big organization. He's committed to the agenda of intelligence reform. And he's not just a military officer. He's had broad experience in the intelligence business."

Bush said Hayden is the best choice to lead the embattled CIA.

"Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position," he said in the Oval Office, with Hayden at his side. "He knows the intelligence community from the ground up."

Bush cited Hayden's experience as "both a provider and a consumer of intelligence."

"He's overseen the development of both human and technological intelligence," he said. "He has demonstrated an ability to adapt our intelligence services to the new challenges in the war on terror. He's the right man to lead the CIA at this critical moment in our nation's history.

Concern About a Military Leader for CIA

Several items on Hayden's resume have drawn lawmakers' attention since his name surfaced over the weekend as a potential replacement for Goss.

Hayden ran the National Security Agency from 1999 until last year. He has since spoken out in support of the NSA's controversial domestic spying program and has outlined a provocative plan to shift the CIA's focus from analyzing intelligence to hunting terrorists.

The biggest obstacle to his potential nomination may be his military uniform.

"This is a civilian agency," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday.

"And it's meant to be a civilian agency. So, you know, he might think about resigning his commission if he's going to do this," said the senator, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee also said Sunday it would be unwise to put a general in charge now.

"He's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said on "Fox News Sunday." "We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time."

"The CIA was created to be an independent, analytical intelligence agency, and it can't be really independent if the person running it is responsible to the person running the Pentagon," said James Bamford, an intelligence expert and author of "A Pretext for War." "So he's got to resign his commission as a general in the U.S. Air Force," Bamford said.

Hayden will have to assume leadership of an agency that has been dealing with steadily declining morale.

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