Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today released the following statement in support of the confirmation of General Michael Hayden as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Five years of Bush Republican incompetence has left America’s intelligence community in disarray, and General Hayden will have a tough task ahead to repair the damage.
“I support the nomination of General Hayden as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Based on my review of his long record as a career intelligence man and his answers to some important questions during his confirmation hearing, I am hopeful General Hayden will provide the CIA the kind of non-partisan leadership it has sorely lacked for the past several years. And I am also hopeful that this nomination signifies that the Bush Administration has recognized, finally, that professionals, not partisans should be put in charge of national security.
“General Hayden has impeccable credentials and a career in intelligence matters that is as impressive as it is long. Anyone can read the public record and quickly see that this man is more than qualified for this job. And my personal meeting with General Hayden shortly after he was nominated only served to reinforce that impression. I met with him privately – one on one – in my office just off this floor, for more than 45 minutes. During the course of that meeting, we discussed General Hayden’s career in the Air Force from 1969 until today and his dedicated service to America’s intelligence community that ultimately earned him a fourth star.
“My meeting convinced me that General Hayden understands and respects the role of Congress in national security matters. He seems to grasp how essential it is that he consult regularly with the congressional leadership on these critical issues. And he seems to recognize the need to keep the congressional oversight committees fully informed about the intelligence community’s activities.
“All of these are important because we are a nation at war and actions by the Bush Administration have left our intelligence community – this nation’s eyes and ears on those who mean us harm – in disarray. As a direct result of this Administration’s actions, the Central Intelligence Agency and those it placed under contract have been directly implicated in numerous instances of abuse of detainees that have given this nation a black eye around the world and been counterproductive to winning the fight against terrorism. The findings of our intelligence community are increasingly questioned by the American people and the world. And scores of incredibly talented and experienced career intelligence professionals have been driven from their jobs because they insisted on speaking the truth rather than tow the Administration’s line.
“Things apparently got so out of hand at CIA in recent months that the President’s intelligence advisory board finally had to intervene and recommend change.
“All of these developments have harmed national security and placed Americans at greater risk. And it is against this difficult backdrop that the Senate debates the nomination of General Hayden. As Senator Levin said in the confirmation hearings, “The next Director must right this ship and restore the CIA to its critically important position.”
“I want to briefly lay out the three major challenges that I believe General Hayden faces in ensuring that he achieves the success the Senate expects of his tenure.
“The first challenge is independence.
“General Hayden needs to speak truth to power and call the shots as he sees them, not as he thinks his boss wants them seen. Rebuilding the independence of intelligence also means ending its politicization. General Hayden must stand up to an Administration that has either attempted to bully the intelligence community into saying what it wanted or worked around it when it couldn’t get the answers it needed. General Hayden must provide assurances to Congress that intelligence assessments, and professional intelligence civil servants, will be protected from outside interference, not politicized.
“The second challenge is openness to oversight.
“This Administration has refused to follow the law and Senate rules that require keeping the intelligence committees fully and currently informed of important intelligence practices. Administration ideologues have apparently authorized detention and interrogation practices that have backfired in our efforts in the war on terror, and concocted controversial legal arguments for presidential powers backing a warrantless surveillance program that circumvents the law – all without keeping Congress properly informed as required under the law. General Hayden must ensure that Congress is able to carry out its constitutional obligations on critical national security matters.
“The third challenge is fixing our strategy in the war on terror.
“After more than four years of the war on terror, Osama bin Laden remains at large and Al Qaeda and other radical fundamentalist terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our security. Terrorist attacks have increased not decreased on this Administration’s watch. Two of the three so-called Axes of Evil are more dangerous today than they were when President Bush first uttered that memorable phrase and the third, Iraq, is on the verge of becoming what it was not before the war – a haven and launching pad for international terrorists. And America’s standing in the world has reached record lows in critical regions of the world.
“In the short run, General Hayden must insist that the Bush Administration redouble and refocus its efforts that go after “high value targets”. It is a travesty – a travesty – that nearly 5 years after 9/11, the Bush Administration has not captured or killed Osama bin Laden. The CIA must lead efforts to understand the challenge posed by Iran and North Korea and their nuclear ambitions.
“General Hayden must also build a global human intelligence capability over the next several years with diverse officers who understand the cultures and speak the languages of every key target across the entire globe. The CIA must play a leading role in understanding how to help win the battle of ideas going on within the Islamic world, and how to change the calculus of the young so that new generations of terrorists are not created.
“These are all large and important challenges, with grave consequences for America and the world. Based on everything I have seen I am hopeful he is up to the task. And I am hopeful this Administration will let him do the job for which it nominated him.”
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