President Bush has nominated Air Force General Michael Hayden to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, days after the surprise resignation of director Porter Goss.
President Bush says General Hayden is well qualified to head the CIA, as a man with more than 20 years of experience in intelligence work, including six years as director of the National Security Agency.
"Mike knows our intelligence community from the ground up," Mr. Bush says. "He has been both a provider and a consumer of intelligence. He has overseen the development of both human and technological intelligence. He has demonstrated an ability to adapt our intelligence services to the new challenges of the war on terror. He is the right man to lead the CIA at the critical moment in our nation's history."
Since April, 2005, Hayden has served as deputy director of national intelligence. In recent years, he oversaw a controversial operation that involves eavesdropping on electronic communications between people in the United States and suspected terrorists abroad.
Civil rights groups and others have criticized the operation as an infringement on Americans' liberty and right to privacy. The general has insisted the program is vital to detecting terrorist threats.
Speaking from the Oval Office, President Bush said he expects General Hayden to continue reforms at the CIA begun by Porter Goss, whose reasons for stepping down have not been made pubic. Mr. Bush praised Goss' tenure, and said the CIA's work has never been more important to the security of the American people.
When he took the podium, General Hayden paid tribute to CIA employees.
"To the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency, if I am confirmed, I would be honored to join you, and work with so many good friends," he said. "Your achievements are frequently under-appreciated and hidden from the public eye. But, you know what you do to protect the republic."
The Senate must confirm Hayden's nomination. Some legislators, including a few from President Bush's Republican Party, have voiced concerns about putting a military officer at the head of a civilian agency.
Speaking with reporters, Hayden's current superior, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, downplayed those concerns. He noted that Hayden has worked for civilian entities in the past and described the general as an "independent" thinker.
Negroponte said the administration's goal is not to militarize America's information-gathering capability, but rather to make sure that civilian and military intelligence operations work hand-in-hand.
"Obviously, we have to work together with the military [on intelligence matters]. The watchword for intelligence reform is, after all, 'integration.' And that means integration of all of our elements of government that work on intelligence," Negroponte said. "And we are also in a war, so it stands to reason that we have to work very closely with the Pentagon and with the armed services in our intelligence activities, and we do precisely that."
Negroponte said, going forward, U.S. intelligence priorities include disrupting terrorist organizations and monitoring nations seeking weapons of mass destruction.