President George W. Bush named Air Force General Michael Hayden yesterday to lead the embattled CIA, re-igniting a debate over the domestic surveillance program he once ran.
Republican and Democratic critics also questioned the wisdom of putting a military officer in charge of the civilian spy agency.
"Mike Hayden is extremely qualified for this position," Bush said in the Oval Office.
If confirmed, Hayden would replace Porter Goss, who resigned under pressure Friday.
"Mike knows our intelligence community from the ground up," Bush said. "He has been a provider and consumer of intelligence."
To balance the CIA between military and civilian leadership, the White House plans to move aside the agency's No. 2 official, Vice Admiral Albert Calland III, who took over as deputy director less than a year ago, two senior administration officials said. Other personnel changes also are likely, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the changes are not ready to announce.
Talk of Hayden's nomination rekindled the debate over the Bush's administration's domestic surveillance program, which Hayden used to oversee as the former head of the National Security Agency. Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter said he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the program and did not rule out holding it up until he gets answers.
"I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand until I see how the facts evolve," Specter said on Fox TV.
Representative Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned that Hayden's nomination would detract from the real issue of intelligence reform.
"The debate in the Senate may end up being about the terrorist surveillance program and not about the future of the CIA or the intelligence community, which is exactly where the debate needs to be," Hoekstra said on CBS' "The Early Show."
"This is about whether we still have alignment and agreement between the executive branch and Congress as to where intelligence reform needs to go," he said.
Hoekstra's sentiment was echoed by Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, who said that Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and several Democrats who made the rounds of the Sunday television talk shows. Senator Joseph Biden said Hayden could leave agents with the impression that the CIA has been "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."
"I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," Hoekstra said on Fox News Sunday.
Hoekstra said having a general in charge of the CIA could create the impression among agents around the world that the agency is under Pentagon control, at a time when the Defense Department and CIA have "ongoing tensions."
If Hayden were nominated and confirmed, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.