Bush defends pick of Hayden

Lingering mistrust between Pentagon, CIA fuels concerns

Analysis

May 09, 2006|By SIOBHAN GORMAN | SIOBHAN GORMAN,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden would not be the first military man to head the CIA, so why are some in Congress vigorously objecting to his nomination on those grounds?

The concerns about President Bush's nominee grow out of mutual distrust between the CIA and the Pentagon that dates to the creation of the CIA in 1947 and has intensified since the Iraq war and Sept. 11 intelligence failures.

Spy chief John D. Negroponte sought to soften the criticism yesterday by disclosing that the new deputy director of the CIA was likely to be Stephen R. Kappes, a former head of the CIA's clandestine service - a move intended to suggest that Kappes would balance Hayden's leadership atop the beleaguered agency.

Together, Hayden and Kappes would be a "boost for the morale" at the CIA, Negroponte said at a briefing. He said Hayden is "really capable of staking out independent positions."

Several CIA veterans and intelligence professionals said the head of the CIA shouldn't be too close to the military officers at the Pentagon or to the politicians in the White House.

Questions about military leadership of the CIA are valid, but the issue "is about independence," said Bill Nolte, a former top CIA official who also spent years at the National Security Agency.

Nolte and other intelligence specialists said the debate over whether Hayden's status as a general should disqualify him for the job is a proxy for the long-running debate over how free a hand the Pentagon should have in collecting intelligence.

The fears about a general in charge at the CIA, expressed by Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra, who leads the House Intelligence Committee, and others, reflects concerns inside the CIA that the Pentagon is increasingly taking on spy operations traditionally conducted by the CIA.

CIA officers also are worried that a growing Pentagon role in intelligence means that all U.S. intelligence agencies will increasingly be forced to gear their intelligence efforts to the immediate needs of soldiers in the field, as opposed to assessing, for example, when Iran is likely to produce a nuclear weapon.

Several CIA veterans, who said they are generally skeptical of military men running the CIA, said they would not be concerned about Hayden as CIA director, especially if Kappes is his deputy.

Hayden has shown himself to be independent of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Kappes would bolster that independence and provide deep CIA experience, they said.

Six former CIA directors were active military officers when - or shortly before - they took over at CIA. The most recent was Adm. Stansfield Turner, who served until 1981.

Rumsfeld's post-Sept. 11 maneuverings - which included setting up his own intelligence office and granting military intelligence teams the right to run operations without telling the ambassador or the CIA - have left the CIA, which prides itself on its civilian heritage, feeling threatened. Meanwhile Negroponte is taking on many of the responsibilities the CIA director had handled.

"This is part of the process as we're all working through this transition: What does it mean to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency?" Nolte said.

The CIA was created after World War II over the objections of the Defense Department, which fought the establishment of a potential rival. Designed to prevent another attack such as the one on Pearl Harbor, the CIA was to be independent of the Pentagon and of direct political control so that it could provide policymakers with unvarnished assessments of threats to the country.

Check on Pentagon

During the Cold War, the CIA often served as a check on the Pentagon, which tried to promote the purchase of expensive weapons systems by using military intelligence assessments of the Soviet threat, said Thomas Powers, a leading intelligence historian.

The Defense Department "would just cook up intelligence that would justify it," he said.

The advent of Negroponte's office, created in a 2004 intelligence reform bill designed to fix the problems exposed by the Sept. 11 attacks, further confused the CIA's role. It took away key elements of the job of the director of central intelligence, who had been responsible for the CIA and for managing the other 16 intelligence agencies.

At the same time, it trimmed the Pentagon's power by giving Negroponte the ability to direct intelligence spending, 80 percent of which comes from the Pentagon budget.

Scolded by Rumsfeld

Hayden, then director of the NSA, publicly took issue with Rumsfeld's position that the NSA should remain part of the Defense Department. In testimony before Congress that prompted Rumsfeld to dress him down privately, Hayden said the NSA should fall under the new spy chief's purview.

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