With Gen. Michael Hayden’s expected nomination to run the CIA, a military officer would be in charge of every major spy agency.
The question is: Will the headstrong CIA salute as he presses ahead with reforms?
Government officials all the way up to President Bush have called this a time of transition at the CIA.
Its director, Porter Goss, announced his resignation Friday, as the CIA and the 15 other U.S. spy agencies still adjust to life in an era of intelligence overhauls ordered by Congress. A December 2004 law was the most sweeping redesign of U.S. intelligence since 1947.
Enter Hayden, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte’s top deputy and former National Security Agency chief who is considered the front-runner to succeed Goss.
California Rep. Jane Harman, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that when she travels overseas, she hears concerns from civilian CIA professionals about whether the Defense Department is taking over intelligence operations. She shares those concerns.
“They see all these new DoD folks running around,” Harman said in an interview Saturday. “There are probably more people in uniform running around the intelligence community than any other time in history.”
The White House said there was a “collective agreement” that the CIA needed a new leader now. A presidential spokeswoman, Dana Perino, told reporters that Goss played an important role in the fight against terrorism and “helped transform the agency to meet the challenging times we’re living in.”
She added: “Reports that the president had lost confidence in Porter Goss are categorically untrue.”
As soon as Monday, the White House could announce Goss’ replacement, which is likely to be Hayden.
If he were to get the nomination, military officers would run the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret NSA to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Already, the Pentagon’s Special Forces and other outfits are expanding their global role.
The next CIA chief must deal with low morale at the agency; uncertainties in the intelligence about hot spots such as Iran and North Korea; an uncontrolled insurgency in Iraq; and the pursuit _ fruitless so far _ of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.
Hayden’s potential impact at the CIA is difficult for many to predict because the agency’s mission in Iran, Iraq and elsewhere is hardly transparent. John Pike, director of the GlobalSecurity.org think tank, said U.S. foreign policy has become a military policy _ a trend that began a decade ago.
With a general at the CIA’s helm, “it would represent the culmination of the militarization of the agency that has been under way for some time,” Pike said Saturday. “We are at war.”
Among other pressure points, the incoming director will have to help sort out how the National Clandestine Service fits in with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. This organization, created in the intelligence overhaul, is made up largely of the CIA’s spookiest operatives.
Goss’ successor also will have to decide where the CIA’s analysts will serve best: at the agency or new specialty centers, such as the National Counterterrorism Center.
The CIA wants to retain its most experienced staff and its pre-eminence, having once sat atop the spy pyramid because its director coordinated all U.S. intelligence. When the national intelligence director’s office was opened last year, the CIA was relegated to a lesser position.
Hayden would have to adapt to the CIA’s culture, which is considered more rambunctious than the military’s hierarchy. That could mean that as changes are made, CIA staff may not be as quick to salute as would those at the NSA, which is part of the Pentagon.
Many military officials who join the CIA find they adapt to it.
For instance, the CIA’s deputy director, Navy Vice Adm. Albert Calland, traded in his uniform for a suit and is known to most at the CIA simply as “Bert.”
Retired Navy Adm. William O. Studeman _ who has served as CIA deputy director, CIA acting director and NSA director _ said the transition from the military to the CIA is not difficult for an intelligence professional.
“On the other hand, it takes some getting used to the CIA culture and mission,” he said. And “some of the missions have changed under intelligence reform.”
Hayden, whose career has centered on electronic spying, would have to convince the CIA’s officers that he understands traditional spycraft. “Porter Goss knew the arcana of that business because he lived it,” as a former CIA officer in the 1960s, said Tom Newcomb, a Tiffin University professor and aide to Goss on the House Intelligence Committee.
The CIA was created after World War II to provide a civilian intelligence organization, in part after the military failed to predict the attack on Pearl Harbor. The issue of civilian control continues to come up in debates.
Out of concern about military control of the CIA, Congress wrote into law that the CIA director and his deputy cannot both be military officers. If Hayden were to land the job, he would have to retire from active duty or Calland would have to look for a new position.
Some intelligence officials say civilians are essential to a healthy spy apparatus because they are not wedded to organizational charts and processes.
That is most important with good old-fashioned spying. For years, that was the CIA’s bread-and-butter and the type of intelligence that the U.S. most needs in the fight against terrorism. The agency tries to attract independent thinkers who can analyze information and make decisions in far-flung locations, with less reporting back to Washington than is found in the military.
Hayden has been painted as someone willing to break the mold. Many insiders say he is not particularly close to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his top aides, whose power in the administration is routinely perceived as a threat to the CIA.
Rumsfeld has a potent card: The Pentagon controls more than 80 percent of the intelligence budget.
© 2006 The Associated Press