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CIA Promises to Do All It Can to Protect the United States

CIA director Michael Hayden says his agency wants to use every inch of US law to protect the American people, but that it does not go beyond the legal way to carry out its duty. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

Amidst criticism that the CIA misallocated funds, didn't do enough to counter terrorist threats and violated civil liberties, Hayden defends the agency's actions and says it did nothing illegal. He says that in free societies like the United States, intelligence services must operate within strict limits and that the CIA works within legal boundaries both here and abroad.

"Those boundaries here in America reflect the principles of the republic that are most worth defending. We at CIA work very hard to live up to them even as we operate in the shadow world of espionage," he said.

Hayden says that the CIA has an obligation to conform to the nation's free society laws and philosophy, and not the other way around. But, he says, it is not always easy when the external threat is so elusive. He says the war on terror is unlike any war the United States has ever fought. It requires more intelligence than actual warfare.

"In the post 9/11 era, intelligence is more crucial to the security of the republic than ever before. We're now in an age in which our primary adversary is easy to kill - he's just very hard to find," he said.

Hayden says the emphasis on intelligence in the last five years is understandable and he defends the CIA's current programs of detaining, interrogating and sometimes rendering prisoners to or from foreign governments.

Hayden spoke at the private Council on Foreign Relations in New York Friday in light of a newly released report by the CIA's Office of the Inspector General (O.I.G.), which says the agency failed to develop an effective counterterrorism strategy before the September 11 attacks.

Hayden says New York, which like the rest of the nation is preparing to mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11, is still strong and vibrant, but that September 11, 2001 will always have an effect on the perception of the city. "I think it's very unlikely that there will ever come a time when a CIA director visits New York and his or her thoughts aren't shaped by 9/11. We're at war and this city has been a battlefield in that war," he said.

As the US government now analyzes a new video said to be of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden reportedly declaring that the United States is vulnerable, despite economic and military power, it's hard to tell how long this war will last.