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CIA Chief Likely to Be in Place This Week

KATHERINE SHRADER / AP | May 25 2006

WASHINGTON -- Gen. Michael Hayden could clear a final hurdle and win Senate approval to be CIA director as early as Thursday.

Hayden, the former National Security Agency chief who became the nation's No. 2 intelligence official last year, has come under fire for his stewardship of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program.

Debate also has focused on whether it is the right time for a military officer to head the civilian CIA.

On Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to approve Hayden for the CIA post and to maintain the Air Force's highest rank, four-star general. That gives Hayden the option to keep his uniform.

He would be the first military officer to run the CIA in 25 years, when retired Adm. Stansfield Turner was at the helm. Hayden would be the first active duty officer since 1953.

At his confirmation hearing, Hayden sought to assure senators that he would be independent from the Pentagon, but said he would consider how his uniform affects his relationship with CIA personnel.

If it were to get in the way, he said, "I'll make the right decision."

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved Hayden's nomination on Tuesday by a vote of 12-3; three of the committee's seven Democrats voted against him.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, one of the dissenters, said he had problems reconciling Hayden's public statements with reports about government surveillance.

"At this critical time, when our country is at war, when it is essential that we balance the need to fight terrorism ferociously with protecting privacy, we can't have our government saying one thing and then doing another," he said.

Some lawmakers are looking for ways to change the law so judges have oversight of President Bush's eavesdropping operations. Shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush directed the NSA to monitor domestic calls _ without court approval _ when one party is overseas and terrorism is suspected.

On Wednesday, Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow approvals for surveillance in intelligence investigations to move faster through a secretive court process.

The last day for outgoing CIA Director Porter Goss, who led the agency for 20 tumultuous months, is Friday. The CIA planned a send-off Thursday afternoon.

"The director and Mrs. Goss are looking forward to having the opportunity to bid a fond farewell to their agency family," said an e-mail to CIA employees.

 

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