The U.S. Senate confirmed Gen. Michael Hayden on Friday as the next
CIA director, with the Bush administration hoping he will help reinvigorate an agency battered by a string of intelligence failures.
Hayden, 61, takes over America’s most storied spy agency with a pledge to boost morale and make it more aggressive after it was caught flat-footed on the September 11, 2001 attacks and provided flawed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Hayden was confirmed on a 78-15 vote, providing a broad bipartisan endorsement to the architect of President George W. Bush’s domestic spying program. Hayden has been principal deputy to U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte up to now.
Bush applauded the Senate’s bipartisan vote and said of Hayden, “Winning the war on terror requires that America have the best intelligence possible and his strong leadership will ensure that we do.”
Hayden replaces Porter Goss, who was forced to resign earlier this month after clashing with Negroponte amid widespread concern about the future of the spy agency.
Twenty-six Democrats and the Senate’s lone independent joined 51 Republicans voting for Hayden. Only one Republican, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted against Hayden and he said it was in protest over actions by National Security Agency.
Hayden, an Air Force general, was NSA director when Bush ordered the domestic eavesdropping program in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Critics say it exceeds the president’s constitutional powers and violates a federal law requiring court warrants for eavesdropping inside the United States.
Specter said the Bush administration had not fully complied with a law on notifying Congress of the spying program, which allows for monitoring of international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without warrants while pursuing al Qaeda suspects.
Instead, a select group of the committee was briefed, with a full briefing only “in the few days prior to the confirmation hearings on General Hayden,” Specter said.
In unusually blunt language about fellow Republicans, Specter said his Judiciary Committee “was stonewalled, plain and simple,” by the Bush administration when the panel tried to get information about domestic surveillance from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Besides Specter, dissenting votes came from 14 Democrats who expressed concern over the NSA spying program.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record) of Massachusetts was one of those Democrats. “Until there is a full accounting of the surveillance program, I cannot in good conscience support a promotion for its chief architect,” Kennedy said.
But most Democrats appeared to take the lead of influential party members including Sen. John Rockefeller (news, bio, voting record) of West Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has called Hayden an experienced and independent leader capable of restoring the CIA’s credibility.