Congressmen Question Military Officer as CIA Head
Several key congressmen from both sides of the aisle are expressing reservations about putting a military officer, General Michael Hayden, in charge of the CIA.
A leading Republican came out against the front-runner for CIA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, saying Sunday the spy agency should not have military leadership during a turbulent time among intelligence agencies. Members of the Senate committee that would consider President Bush’s nominee also expressed reservations, saying the CIA is a civilian agency and putting Hayden atop it would concentrate too much power in the military for intelligence matters.
Bush was expected to nominate a new director as early as Monday to replace Porter Goss, who abruptly resigned on Friday. But opposition to Hayden because of his military background is mounting on Capitol Hill, where he would face tough hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Despite a distinguished career at the Defense Department, Hayden would be “the wrong person, the wrong place at the wrong time,” said the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. “There is ongoing tensions between this premier civilian intelligence agency and DOD as we speak,” Hoekstra said. “And I think putting a general in charge – regardless of how good Mike is – … is going to send the wrong signal through the agency here in Washington but also to our agents in the field around the world,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
If Hayden were to get the nomination, military officers would run the major spy agencies in the United States, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon already controls more than 80 percent of the intelligence budget. “You can’t have the military control most of the major aspects of intelligence,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The CIA “is a civilian agency and is meant to be a civilian agency,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
A second committee member, GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, added, “I think the fact that he is a part of the military today would be the major problem.”
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., mentioned fears the CIA would “just be gobbled up by the Defense Department” if Hayden were to take over.
As a former Army officer and one who has long advocated moving the “operations” mission of CIA and the rest of the Intelligence Community to the Defense Department, with analysis functions consolidated into fewer agencies, I am not particularly impressed by these arguments. After all, to paraphrase George Will, these people are essentially arguing that, if we put the military in charge of CIA, we would risk sacrificing the superb intelligence work we’re getting now.
Further, as someone with a little bit of historical insight, I find the notion that a military head of CIA would be problematic a bit amusing:
See Wikipedia for working links.
As you can see, almost all of the early CIA Directors were military officers.