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Congressional Concern Over Likely CIA Nominee


President Bush is expected to move quickly to choose a new director for the Central Intelligence Agency, and could announce a nominee on Monday. President's choice could face a big fight in Congress.

All signs are pointing to General Michael Hayden - the deputy director of national intelligence, a post that involves oversight and coordination of the various intelligence agencies within the federal government.

Prominent lawmakers praise him as a brilliant man with a firm grasp of intelligence operations. But there are concerns that naming a military man to head a civilian agency sends a bad signal.

That is the warning House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra says he delivered to the White House.

"I think he is the wrong person today," said Peter Hoekstra.

The Michigan Republican says there are already tensions between the military and the Central Intelligence Agency and Hayden is likely to be seen by many at the CIA as too close to the Defense Department.

During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday program, Hoekstra stressed putting a general in charge in the current climate will complicate efforts to reform and strengthen the agency.

"I do not think you can underestimate the difficulty in rebuilding, reshaping and transforming the Central Intelligence Agency," he said. "This is a debate we do not need at this time."

If Hayden is named to replace Porter Goss - who quit last Friday - and confirmed by Congress, military officers would be at the helm of all the major spy agencies in the United States.

During an appearance on ABC's This Week, Senator Diane Feinstein - a top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee - noted there is legislation under consideration in Congress that stipulates the CIA director must be a civilian.

"This is not the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] or the NSA [the National Security Agency], which are military agencies," said Diane Feinstein. "This is a civilian agency. And it is meant to be a civilian agency."

General Hayden is a former National Security Agency chief and helped launch a controversial secret surveillance program as part of the war on terror. Feinstein predicted that program is also likely to come under renewed scrutiny during the confirmation process.

"You can be sure that members have major questions about this program, particularly because the president and the administration chose not to use the legal means, which is to get a warrant through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which should have been the case," she said.

The administration says this program - which involves eavesdropping on electronic communications between people in the United States and suspected terrorist links abroad - is vital. Officials - including Hayden - have stressed there is no time in such cases to seek prior court approval and the usual legal requirements do not apply.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will conduct the confirmation hearings, promises a tough and thorough process. Republican Pat Roberts appeared on CNN's Late Edition.

"We always have an obligation to have every Senator have the opportunity to express their concern and to question the nominee about whatever concern that may be," said Pat Roberts.

Senator Roberts would not say if he would support a Hayden nomination. Instead, he focused on the fact that the CIA is going through a tough transformation from the Cold War to the war on terror and whoever steps in must be able to transition the agency to meet today's demands.

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