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Hayden Appears Before Senate For Confirmation Hearings

Aired May 18, 2006 - 10:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to take a quick break as Pat Roberts begins the formal Q&A process with General Michael Hayden who declared that the intelligence business has too much become the football in American political discourse. Something he says must end and must end soon. The questioning of the nominee to become the next CIA director will continue. Our special coverage will continue.
You can, of course, if you're near a computer, watch all of this uninterrupted on CNN Pipeline. A good way to do that.

We'll speak with several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee coming up in the next few hours. Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss. We'll get their reaction of General Hayden's testimony. Stay with us for our special coverage. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Our special coverage of the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency will continue. The committee has taken a brief recess to go and vote on separate legislation. We'll go back to the hearing to begin the question and answer process with General Hayden. That will begin momentarily.

Let's, though, check in with CNN's Carol Lin at the CNN global headquarters for a quick look at some other important news making headlines right now.

Hi, Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Wolf.

Hi there.

President Bush is headed to the border town of Yuma, Arizona. The U.S. border patrol catches as many as 450 illegal immigrants a day there. More than anywhere else in the country. Mr. Bush plans to stress the themes of his prime time address Monday night. He called, for example, for National Guard troops to secure the border with Mexico.

Now Mr. Bush's ideas are getting, well, a mixed reception on Capitol Hill. That debate is underway again this hour. Now some Republicans oppose the president's plan to legalize some undocumented workers. But nonetheless, the Senate has turned back the GOP challenges to that proposal. The Senate also approved a triple layer of fencing along the border with Mexico. It would span some 870 miles.

Now we're about to show you a picture of an undocumented worker who surrendered to a news crew in Arizona. CNN affiliate KGUN-TV tells us that he was among 70 people crammed inside a panel truck. It crashed in a city park in Sierra Vista. The suspected illegal immigrants then scattered into the surrounding neighborhoods. Most were rounded up throughout the day.

And there is a grim reminder of the dangers of illegal immigration. Border patrol officials say a three-year-old boy from Mexico died while crossing the desert near Tucson with his mother. She left his body behind, but told border patrol agents when they caught her. There's going to be an autopsy and possible criminal charges.

Mobsters and mystery. Jimmy Hoffa is back in the news this hour. The FBI is searching a Michigan horse farm for new clues in the 30- year-old case. An informant tipped them off that the body of the former teamster's president could be buried there. The farm's in Milford Township near Detroit. Now Hoffa was last seen meeting a reputed mob enforcer in a restaurant in nearby Greenfield Township.


GENE ZAFFT, HOFFA ATTORNEY: We thought at that time he'd been kidnapped. And they were kind of waiting to hear from someone making a demand. Never came.


LIN: Boy, Wolf, no one's ever been charged with Hoffa's disappearance or death. So the mystery remains until they can solve it, Wolf.

BLITZER: One of the great mysteries over these past several decades. Carol, thanks very much.

We're standing by. The committee is in recess now. The Senate Intelligence Committee. The confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to become the next CIA director. We've heard an opening statement from General Hayden, opening statements from the chairman, Pat Roberts, as well as the ranking Democrat, at least the one who's ranking right now with J. Rockefeller recovering from back surgery, Carl Levin. The form Q&A is about to begin. We'll take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're monitoring the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden, 61-year-olds old, United States Air Force active duty. Former director of the NSA, the National Security Agency. Now number two. The principle deputy national intelligence director right now. General Hayden has just completed an opening statement. The questioning is about to begin. Members, though, have left the Senate office building for a vote on the Senate floor. They'll be walking back momentarily. We're having our special coverage.

With us here in THE SITUATION ROOM is our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, John McLaughlin, our national security advisor. In New York is Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, and Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst.

Candy Crowley, the politics of this so far interesting. The chairman, Pat Roberts, laying out a very strong statement of support for what the National Security Agency, the intelligence community, has been doing as far as warrantless wiretaps, monitoring phone records are concerned. Not surprisingly, the Democrat who spoke, Carl Levin, opening up with some serious questions.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You had sort of serial monologues. It was a debate but through serial monologues. You had Pat Roberts. Really, basically, the administration couldn't have ask for anything better, saying, listen here, you know, civil rights are great but you have none if you're dead. Then you had Carl Levin bringing up, you know, CIA intelligence being fixed around the policy. And then along comes a nominee who says, OK, let me tell you how I'd run the CIA. So they had a political debate at the podium among the senators and then with they got to the nominee, he just went forward with what he'd do on the job, which is the point of the hearings.

BLITZER: John McLaughlin, you're a former deputy director at the CIA. You know General Hayden quite well. Worked closely with him. As you listen to this opening statement that he delivered, he was clearly speaking to several different audiences.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was a typical Mike Hayden. It was thoughtful, visionary and gutsy all at the same time. I think he had at least three audiences in mind here. First he was talking to the population of the CIA, putting the emphasis on the fact that this is an agency that still is key to the success of the intelligence community, not just another agency.

He was talking to the Congress. You notice how he at one time said he wants to have an honest and open relationship. But he also chided them a little bit and said, you have your part to do here in oversight and it involves discretion and it involves speaking up when you've been briefed on something and not pretending as though you've never heard about it. That's the gutsy part.

Third, I think he was speaking to the American public here because there's been so much controversy about the CIA, I think he's trying to assure people that it's within the law, it's there to protect the American public, he has his hands on the problems, he understands it's not perfect and he's prepared to deal with mistakes and problems that have been made. So I think he was talking to all those people here very effectively.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, this hearing comes at an interesting moment in American history. Right now, three years into this war in Iraq, clearly some major intelligence failures. There have been successes. Many of them they don't talk about publicly for fear of releasing information involving sources and methods. The so-called crown jewels of the intelligence community. But what do you seen folding today?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things. First, General Hayden's insistence that the CIA still was critical to intelligence gathering. As he said, the CIA director's no longer director of central intelligence. The great majority of the intelligence budget is spent elsewhere. And some people feel the whole agency has been denigrated compared to what it used to be.

Second, when he said, look, intelligence has to form the left and right boundaries of the arena in which policy decisions are made. This gets to the heart of the debate about what -- not just the CIA was doing, but what the Bush administration and what Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney were doing in the runup to the war in Iraq. Were they treating intelligence as the left and right boundaries or were they looking for intelligence that supported what they already wanted to do?

And I think the third thing I'd point out is when he said quite forcefully, the CIA has to stay out of the news, both as source and subject. He was saying not just to CIA and other intelligence officials stop leaking, but I think he was also saying to the news media, you guys have to be careful about what you print, which is one of the major arguments that the president was making in the wake of some of these revelations.

So the whole notion of the political arena or the political atmosphere that surround these debates and the fierce debate about what was the CIA doing and what was the administration doing with the CIA in the run-up to the war in Iraq is -- it's not just a backdrop to these hearings, it's probably going to be the major themes we hear in the next couple of days, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Jeff Toobin, there's no doubt that there are members of this Senate Intelligence Committee on the Democratic side and other senators who aren't members of this committee who believe that the NSA, the National Security Agency, the Bush administration flatly broke the law when they authorized after 9/11 these warrantless wiretaps as part of the war on terror. And there's no doubt that General Hayden is going to be grilled on the legality of what he undertook.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, my reaction was somewhat surprised -- I was somewhat surprised by what I heard from Senator Levin. I thought that was a rather muted criticism of NSA. He was not as strident, not as outraged as, say, Senator Feingold has been, who actually wanted President Bush censured because of these programs. I think if Senator Levin's statement is any indication of where the Democrats are going, they will not be pressing so much on the legality issue as on the effectiveness issue.

Because I think they're very concerned about seeming weak on the issue of terrorism, that they don't want to be as strongly pushing for, you know, the collection of intelligence on al Qaeda. They are more concerned about effectiveness than whether the NSA followed the law. I think it was very clever of the administration to have a briefing for all the senators yesterday, so the issue of whether the Senate has been fully informed has kind of gone away now.

BLITZER: John McLaughlin, let me bring you back into this conversation. You were inside the CIA when many of these decisions were made, the warrantless wiretaps right after 9/11. These were decisions made strictly by executive branch attorneys. They didn't go to the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. They didn't ask for outside legal opinions. They basically told, you know, a few members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, the leaders, what was going on. But there was really no independent -- outside the executive branch -- legal opinions that were given, were there?

MCLAUGHLIN: No. Most of the opinions came from within the Justice Department. I would say about 12 members of Congress were thoroughly briefed. I would emphasize thoroughly. And that was how that program was initiated. I think it was initiated at a time when post-9/11, the nation expected the intelligence community to be connecting all the dots. And the intelligence community very aggressively pursued as many dots as could be found. And we're probably at a moment here where the nation has to decide where it wants to be on the spectrum, from security to privacy. That's also an issue I think that is being debated in these hearings.

BLITZER: I get the sense, Candy, the administration, White House officials, and certainly many Republicans on the Hill, say if the Democrats want to make an issue about wiretapping, warrantless surveillance, bring it on. Because they think they've got a winning hand.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And they said it from the minute the nomination came down of Hayden. They said, look, we are happy to have this argument. They believe that, when properly framed -- and this is -- that's always the case -- when properly framed, the American people will be on their side. They also love the fact that Americans watching this will be reminded of the things that the Bush administration has done in the wake of 9/11, which has always been their strength and but which has begun to fade, obviously, over the course of the last six months to a year as the president's numbers have tumbled.

BLITZER: General Hayden has now walked back in. He's going to be sitting down momentarily. The senators will be walking back in. There's Pat Roberts. He's already there. Let's take a quick break. More of our special coverage, the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to be the CIA director. We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, now beginning the questioning, the formal questioning. All the senators, the members of the committee, will have a chance.

Let's listen in to this first round.

U.S. SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS) CHAIRMAN: ... material requested by the committee in order for it to carry out its oversight and its legislative responsibilities?


ROBERTS: Will you ensure that the Central Intelligence Agency provide such material to the committee when requested?

HAYDEN: Yes, sir.

ROBERTS: General, there's an interesting commentary in your opening statement about the endless picking apart of the archaeology of past intelligence failures and that CIA officers deserve not to have every action analyzed, second-guessed and criticized in the newspapers.

And I agree that it is time to look forward, not in the rearview mirror, and I agree that the press is not the place to air these kind of grievances, whether those grievances originate from outside or inside the agency.

But it is important to be clear: Not having your actions second- guessed is something that is earned, not deserved.

After the Iraq WMD failure, the inquiry that was conducted by this committee and approved with a 17-0 vote, that proved without question we had an egregious intelligence failure, this committee simply cannot intelligence assessments at face value.

We have learned -- and when I say we, I am talking about every member of this committee -- when we have hearings and when we have briefings, we ask the analysts or we ask whoever is testifying: What do you know? What don't you know? What is the difference? And, then, the extra kicker is: What do you think? And we scrub it.

Now, I believe it is necessary for the committee to rigorously examine the CIA's judgments about Iran, about North Korea, about China, about terrorism and proliferation as we work together to ensure there is not another failure like the Iraq WMD failure.

General, the Iraq WMD failure wasn't a failure only because the ultimate assessments were wrong. We both know that you can have a good analytical tradecraft and still get it wrong.

Nobody bats 1.000 in the intelligence world. But the Iraq WMD failure was due in large part to a terribly flawed tradecraft.

General, as CIA director, what steps will you take to improve the agency's analytical tradecraft?

HAYDEN: Senator, as I said in my opening statement, that's up there in the top rung. I mean, ultimately, everything that the CIA or any part of the intel community meets the rest of the world is in its analytic judgments.

Collection and science and technology support are behind the screen with that analytic judgment. And so it is the pass-fail grade for CIA, for the D.I., for the intelligence community.

We've already begun to do some things, and here I think my role would be to make sure these changes are under way and then to reinforce success. Two or three quickly come to mind. One is something that you've already suggested. And that's almost -- that's vigorous transparency in what we know, what we assess and what we know we don't know; and to say that very, clearly so as not to give a policy-maker, or a military commander, any decision-maker a false confidence.

The second I think is a higher tolerance for ambiguity between ourselves and our customers. Now, this is going to require the customer to have a little higher tolerance for ambiguity as well. He or she is just going to have to be in a little less comfortable place when an analysis comes out that is truly transparent in terms of our confidence and different layers of confidence, levels of confidence and different parts of our judgment.

There's got to be a little more running room, too, for he said/she said inside the analysis; that dissenting views aren't, I guess, abstracted out of the piece; and, you know, we just kind of move it to the next level of abstraction; and underlying disagreements are hidden; and that dissenting views aren't hidden by a footnote or other kind of obfuscations. We really have begun to do that.

In my current job, I get to see the briefing that goes forward every day and there is a difference in its texture and a difference in its tenor.

As I said before, Senator, that's the pass-fail grade. Everything else is designed to support that final analytic judgment.

ROBERTS: The CIA is clearly working, as you've indicated, to regain the trust of the policy-makers and its customers. And I'm not trying to perjure the dedication and the hard work that our men and women of the CIA do, risking their lives on behalf of our country.

The men and women in the field, I think, are doing an excellent job -- the rank and file.

The agency has made improvements, particularly in analysis. But the best way for the CIA to earn trust is to give analysts across the community the information they need to perform sound analysis and to encourage collectors to take any and all necessary risks so they can collect the needed information.

And I believe these actions are also the best way to restore the CIA's sense of pride: a goal that both you and I and, obviously, folks down at the CIA share. General, in your assessment, is the CIA taking the risk necessary to get the analysts the intelligence they need to provide policy- makers with sound analysis?

HAYDEN: Senator, that's one of the areas, as I suggested in my opening statement, that I really want to take a very close look at. And I don't know how to answer your question. Is it doing enough? That's going to be some level of discovery learning for me.

But let me tell you what it is I think I do know about this.

We had the same dilemma at NSA. There's always a risk. And the more transparent you are, the more you may reveal and thereby compromise sources and methods -- the same dynamic at Langley.

At NSA, it's a little easier, maybe, to start pushing against the shoulders of the envelope here and get a little bit more risk- embracing because, as you know, if NSA oversteps and got a little too bold in sharing, at the end of the day, what they lose is a frequency.

If CIA gets a little too bold in sharing, at the end of the day, there could be real personal tragedy involved.

And so, although the approaches will be similar, I do understand that the protection of human sources might be a bit different than the protection of signal intelligence sources.

All that said, Senator, I mean, I think the agency itself would admit that it is among the more conservative elements of the community in terms of sharing information.

There are good reasons for that, as I just suggested. But just as we did at NSA, when we held our premises up to the light, when we looked at things carefully, we found that we actually had a lot more freedom of action than perhaps our rote procedures would suggest.

That's the approach I'd take at the agency. It will be careful, but we'll be moving forward.

ROBERTS: The comment I would make in response to the first question that I asked you is that it appeared to most of us on the committee, certainly to the chairman, that the 2002 national intelligence estimate became more or less of an assumption train, in part based on what was known after the first Gulf War.

I believe it was David Kay who indicated after the first Gulf War that Saddam Hussein was 18 months away of having a missile delivery capability that was nuclear, obviously within range of Israel. And everybody thought at that particular time and scratched their head, because that estimate was not 18 months, it was much longer than that, and said, "Well, we're certainly not going to let that happen again."

And so, the assumption was, of course we have to err on the side of national security and security of that region.

Now, having said that, most of the other intelligence agencies, if not all, around the world, were on the same assumption train. The inspectors came in, and the inspectors were asked or forced to leave.

Virtually everybody, members of Congress, people in the administration, other intelligence agencies all throughout the world, assumed that Saddam Hussein would reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction. I think he probably thought he had the weapons of mass destruction. Anybody that would go in to see him and tell him he didn't probably wouldn't go out.

I think many in the military thought, different generals, this particular unit of the Republican Guard had the WMD and this did not.

But as we saw upon closer inspection, as the committee worked through very diligently, interviewing over 250 analysts, we found out exactly what you said, that there were dissenting views, that there were caveats. And added together, it did provide a picture that was most troubling. And that's about the nicest way I can put it.

So what I am asking you, again -- and you've already answered this -- will you put those dissenting views, those caveats, that frank discussion of, "Wait a minute; let's take a closer look," so that they are at least on the assumption train?

I don't know where they would be -- in the middle of the train, front of the train. You might want to put them at the front of the train -- not the caboose. Don't let the caboose go -- so we don't get into this kind of a failure, which we just simply could not afford.

Would you have any comment?

HAYDEN: Yes, sir. I couldn't agree with you more.

And you're right about the analysis. We just took too much for granted. We didn't challenge our basic assumptions.

Now, as you point out, there's historical reasons for that. In a sense, it's understandable. I'm not trying to excuse it. But there is a historical background to it. That should teach us an awful lot about taking assumptions for granted and letting them stand without challenge and without -- well, just simply looking and saying, "Can I put these pieces together in a different way?"

I think we're doing that. If we're not doing it enough, we'll certainly do more of it. That's precisely what it is we have to give to the nation's policy-makers.

Senator, one more thought, though. You know, all of this is shrouded in ambiguity. If these were known facts, you wouldn't be coming to us for them.

And so we'll do our best to tell you what we know and why we think it and where we're doubtful and where we don't know. But I think everyone has to understand the limits of the art here, the limits of the science.

Again, if this were all known, we wouldn't be having the discussion. ROBERTS: I'm going to add one more question before I turn to Senator Bond.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break away from this hearing, take a quick commercial break. Remember, if you're near a computer, you can always watch this hearing uninterrupted, without commercial interruptions. CNN pipeline is the place to go. Go to for details how to connect to this hearing. We're also going to be releasing very shortly a brand new CNN poll on many of the questions being raised during this hearing, the confirmation hearing of General Michael Hayden. We're standing by for questioning from the ranking Democrat Carl Levin on this panel.

Much more on this special coverage here in the SITUATION ROOM right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." We're watching the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to be the next CIA director. He's appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The questioning began with the Chairman Pat Roberts. Senator Kit Bond, Republican of Missouri, is second in the questioning. They're going according to the arrival of various members, not according to seniority. We're monitoring these questions from Senator Kit Bond.

I want to bring in our national security correspondent David Ensor. David, you've gotten to know General Hayden over the years. You're one of the few reporters who was invited out to the National Security Agency to interview him, to get a tour of the facility over the past few years. Give our viewers a sense of the 61-year-old United States Air Force professional.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is probably one of the brightest people in the intelligence community, widely acknowledged as one of the best briefers that the U.S. government has ever produced. He is extremely adept at explaining complex concepts, and he's built his career on being a good manager of people. So there's a lot on the plus side.

On the minus side, there is criticism of him saying that he put in a lot of big ideas about changing the National Security Agency and really wasn't able to complete them, even though he had six years at that agency. They were very ambitious ideas, it should be said. So criticism there. And, obviously, the big question mark, criticism from many who believe that some of the programs he put into place after 9/11 just went too far in bridging civil liberties.

BLITZER: David, based on everything you know -- and you know a great deal on this subject -- is there any hard, specific example that has been made public of either of these two programs, these clandestine programs, the warrantless wiretaps or the tracking of phone records? Has there been any hard evidence that either one of these has thwarted a major terror attack by al Qaeda against the United States? ENSOR: No. There has not. However, a number of officials, General Hayden included, have said that the warrantless wiretapping, the first program you mentioned, has helped them, has given them information they would not otherwise have had in the fight against terrorists who are trying to attack this country. But there's no suggestion from them and I don't know of any example where a major attack is thwarted by these programs.

BLITZER: All right, David, stand by. General Hayden is now being asked specifically about these warrantless wiretap programs. Let's listen in to his response.

HAYDEN: .... the U.S. government most knowledgeable about Al Qaida, Al Qaida communications, Al Qaida's tactics, techniques, procedures.

It's gotten close oversight. It has senior-level review. But it comes out of the expertise of the best folks in the National Security Agency.

I don't make those decisions. The director of SIGINT out there doesn't make those decisions. Those decisions are made at the program level and at the level of our counterterrorism officer.

They're targeting Al Qaida. There is a probable cause standard. Every targeting is documented. There is a literal target folder that explains the rationale and the answers to the questions on a very lengthy checklist as to why this particular number, we believe, to be associated with the enemy.

U.S. SENATOR CHRISTOPHER S. BOND (R-MO): And these are reviewed by -- who reviews these; what's the review process?

HAYDEN: There have been several layers of review. There's obviously a management review just internal to the system. The NSA inspector general is well-read into the program and does routine inspections; I mean literally pulling folders, examining the logic train, talking to the analyst to see if the decisions were correct or warranted by the evidence in the folder.

That's also been conducted by the Department of Justice. They've done the same thing. They looked at the folders.

And to the best of my knowledge, the folks out there are batting 1.000. No one has said that there has been a targeting decision made that wasn't well-founded in a probable cause standard.

BOND: Is there a possibility that somebody could sneak in a request for something that isn't an Al Qaida communication?

HAYDEN: I don't know how that could survive in the culture of the National Security Agency, Senator. It's a very disciplined workforce.

What if an analyst, or somebody who is engaged in -- directly engaged at the lowest level decided to pick up some information on somebody who was out of favor, who they didn't like, how would that be caught?

HAYDEN: Senator, actually, I mean, I recognize the sensitivity of the program, what we're talking about here -- but, actually, that would be a problem in any activity of the National Security Agency.

BOND: So this is...


HAYDEN: ... an appropriate target.

BOND: This is not a program -- a problem, that is specific to the present program. Any time you have an NSA...

HAYDEN: Right. And any time you have...


HAYDEN: Of course.

BOND: And the question is: What do you do to make sure that everybody stays within the guidelines?

HAYDEN: The entire agency, its general counsel, its I.G. -- I mean, that's what it's built to do, to do that kind of oversight.

BOND: And what if they get out of line?

HAYDEN: Well, number one, no evidence whatsoever they've gotten out of line in this program.

In the history of the agency, there have been, you know, I'll say a small number of examples like that. Those are detected through normal processes, I.G. inspections and so on, and action is taken.

BOND: I was at the agency, and I saw the extensive oversight. I also...

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to continue to monitor this hearing, the confirmation hearing of General Michael Hayden. Making a strong defense of his authorization of those warrantless wiretaps by the National Security Agency. He used to be the director of the NSA.

Much more of our coverage continues right after a short break. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



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