By selecting Air Force General Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as CIA director, the
president has made many in Congress unhappy.
"I think putting a general in charge, regardless of how good Mike is...is going to send the
wrong signal," said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
"You can't have the military control major aspects of intelligence," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein
(D-Cal), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Mr. Hoekstra and Ms. Feinstein were being disingenuous. They both know that eight of the 16
agencies that comprise the "Intelligence Community" are in the Department of Defense, which
consumes 80 percent of the overall intelligence budget. And they both know, or ought to, that
of the 19 CIA directors, seven have been generals or admirals.
Rep. Hoekstra probably is miffed at the apparently brusque treatment given his friend Porter
Goss, who was his predecessor as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Mr. Goss' abrupt (at least to us) resignation prompted much speculation over the weekend. The
most plausible is that he lost a power struggle with the new Director of National Intelligence,
John Negroponte. But that doesn't explain the apparent suddenness of his departure.
Porter Goss took over a dysfunctional institution. The CIA had been caught flat-footed by
9/11, and Saddam's WMD was not the "slam dunk" Mr. Goss' predecessor, George Tenet, had assured
President Bush it would be.
Purges in the Carter and Clinton administrations stripped the CIA of its most experienced
clandestine officers. The CIA today gathers little intelligence, and does a poor job of
analyzing intelligence gathered (mostly) by others.
What the CIA has excelled at is interfering in domestic politics. Bush administration policy
has been undermined by selective leaks to liberal journalists, most notably about the NSA
communications intercept program, and "secret prisons" (probably safe houses) in Europe where
high ranking al Qaida captives have been kept.
Porter Goss tried, with some success, to clear out the deadwood at the top; rebuild the CIA's
moribund HUMINT capabilities, and plug the leaks.
So far, only one leaker -- Mary McCarthy, protege of Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy
Berger -- has been publicly identified and fired. Some conservatives fear that Mr. Goss'
departure means the leak hunt is over.
"Now that the CIA's Praetorian Guard has rid itself of Porter Goss, the CIA is confidently
preparing to march back into the intelligence dark ages," wrote Jed Babbin, a former deputy
undersecretary of defense.
"Two weeks after Porter takes one of the biggest steps to send a clear signal around the agency
on leaks, he loses his job," Rep. Hoekstra told the New York Sun. "I don't know how people
will read this."
I think the appointment of Gen. Hayden in spite of (or maybe because of) the opposition to him,
indicates the opposite.
Porter Goss was trying to shovel out an Augean stable. But when the horse manure gets piled
too high, it's easier to shut down the stable, and open another. This is what I think the
Hayden nomination portends.
Congress created the DNI position on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which was
miffed that the CIA and FBI did not share terrorism information with each other, or with other
Negroponte and Goss reportedly quarreled over Negroponte's plan to move much of the CIA's
analysis function to a joint center that would report directly to him. This would permit
Negroponte to pluck the analysts that are worth a damn from the CIA, leaving the deadwood to
Currently Negroponte's deputy, Gen. Hayden was for five years head of the National Security
Agency, where he established the NSA intercept program. The leak hunt will continue.
And Gen. Hayden likely will transfer to the Defense department responsibility for paramilitary
operations, where it has always belonged. In short, the CIA under Gen. Hayden will shrink to
the size warranted by its current performance, not its past pretensions.
Democrats say they plan to make an issue of the NSA wiretap program during his confirmation
hearings. The president and Gen. Hayden seem to welcome that fight. The last time Democrats
criticized the program, their poll numbers plummeted.
The key thing to remember is that this is a fight President Bush picked. He chose the time.
He chose the ground.
Since the spring of 2003, President Bush has been playing defense against the political fallout
generated by intelligence leaks. The Hayden nomination may be the start of a long planned