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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Confirmation Hearing for General Michael Hayden
Aired May 18, 2006 - 10:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're watching the hearings, the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden, the U.S. Air Force four-star general, to become the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. These hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee. We're expecting two formal rounds of questioning by members of the committee and a vote, perhaps as early as later today.
Jeff Toobin is our senior legal analyst. He's been watching all of this.
He's been making a strong defense, Jeff, of his decision, the administration's decision to go ahead and authorize these warrantless wiretaps. This is a very controversial legal maneuver.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Very interesting exchange with Senator Bond here, where I believe General Hayden has provided more detail about how this program actually works than has ever been made public before. And he's been talking about this review process and about how it's narrowly targeted and they have probable cause standard, and they only use it in limited circumstances.
But the question that occurs to me is that if there is so much attention given and such a high standard, why don't they get a warrant? Because that's why the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act existed, to have some level of oversight.
It sounds like there is enough information there to get a warrant. And it will be interesting to see if that question is raised, because it sounds like they could have gotten a warrant if they wanted. And in that case, why didn't they?
BLITZER: That's an excellent question.
Let me bring in John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA, who is our national security adviser.
Candy Crowley is here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.
Why not simply go to the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act? That court is supposed to give a warrant if you want to have clandestine, covert operations, wiretapping going on inside the United States. What's the problem with going through that -- that system? JOHN MCLAUGLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, as you know, Wolf, some members of Congress now, including Jane Harman, have suggested that this whole program simply be put under the FISA process. If you go back to the time when this program was initiated, though, and look at its operation, to the extent that we can actually talk about it, imagine this, you pick up a terrorist overseas and you're lucky enough to get his electronic media. And you discover in that media literally hundreds of leads, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, other things that you want to exploit. In order to use the FISA Act as it is constituted, would you literally need hundreds of FISA warrants.
Each of them is 50 or 60 pages long. They take a long time to put together. The standard for getting that authorization is probable cause. So it's a very high bar.
When, in fact, what you want to do at that point is simply search through quickly a large body of data and narrow it down to the two or three or four where there might be a serious concern about terrorism. And at that point, you focus in through the FISA process.
So I think what this program was really designed to do was to accomplish some things that you couldn't accomplish efficiently with the kind of agility that you need at an early stage in a -- in exploiting a body of data. Because you only have minutes or hours sometimes to do all of this.
BLITZER: That's a fair point, Candy Crowley. It was just so complicated, even though you could go back 72 hours, start a wiretap, and get authorization, even 72 hours later, from a FISA court. The argument has been -- the administration has made this argument, General Hayden, among others, that it would be so bureaucratically burdensome to file all of these affidavits with the FISA court, it would just take an enormous amount of man hours by lawyers and the government to do it, and they just didn't have the time or the resources to do it. Which raises this question: If you don't like the system as it exists, why not go back to Congress and say, you know, the world has changed after 9/11, we need new legislation to give us this formal authorization, to avoid the FISA court when these kinds of circumstances arise?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and it's been raised by a number of people on Capitol Hill. Look, you know, just come ask. You know, we need to change this, do it.
I think -- first of all, I think there was some need, as John suggests, that they move quickly. I mean, this was all sort of done and set up in those horrible, chaotic, really pressury (ph) times post-9/11, and then just sort of stayed. I mean, that's what I'm getting, and that's been what the administration has said. And I'm not sure that people are so worried about the specifics of a case as the breadth of what we're talking about.
BLITZER: Why not, John, simply ask Congress for new legislation?
MCLAUGHLIN: My guess, Wolf, is that that's where this will all come out. We'll see, but the way I've interpreted some of what some members of Congress have suggested is, why not take this whole program and simply put it under the FISA Act and allow the intelligence community to the say to the FISA court, we have a large body of data here we have to go through quickly. OK with you?
And if they say OK, if it's their judgment, then you go ahead. I think that's the essence of it.
BLITZER: I want to bring Jeff Toobin in.
I was briefed months ago, Jeff, on this program by senior officials in the Bush administration over at the White House, and the argument that they made is, they did go to Congress initially, they briefed the leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees, they briefed the leaders of the House and Senate, and the argument that they say they raised is, well, should we get new legislation? And the members of Congress came back, if you bring this up for new legislation, this covert program is going to leak and it's going to compromise the entire operation. You are better off just doing it without seeking formal legislation.
But John McLaughlin is right, now that it's out there, I suspect eventually they will ask for new legislation to go forward.
What do you think, Jeff?
TOOBIN: Well, that certainly does seem to be where it's heading. But remember, right after 9/11, we had the Patriot Act. I mean, Congress went back and gave the intelligence community a lot of the power that it asked for.
If they wanted this power, I can't imagine Congress would have turned it down in light of what went on in the Patriot Act and 9/11. And Congress was only too happy to give the intelligence community most of what it wanted.
You know, the -- you know, it is inconvenient to have to go -- to have to go to the FISA court. But it's not all that inconvenient. And, you know, this FISA court has received thousands of applications since the 1970s. And as far as I understand, has never -- has maybe turned down, you know, fewer than half a dozen.
So, you know, the burdensomeness of the FISA process may be somewhat -- somewhat overstated, especially when you can do it after the fact. You don't even have to go first to the...
BLITZER: You have 72 hours to come back.
BLITZER: You can start a wiretap and then go back and get the authorization later.
Jeff, hold on for a minute.
Right now, Senator Kit Bond, Republican of Missouri, is questioning Michael Hayden on the whole relationship between the CIA and the Pentagon, the fact that he's a four-star active duty officer.
Let's listen in.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: ... and done it very well, a burden that is in many times in direct support of U.S. military forces.
To have DOD step up to those kinds of responsibilities doesn't seem to me to be a bad thing. And if that frees up CIA activities to go back toward the more traditional CIA realm of strategic intelligence, there's a happy marriage to be made here, Senator.
U.S. SENATOR CHRISTOPHER S. BOND (R-MO): I recently read a book -- a novel -- a book on the CIA's role in Afghanistan. And according to the former CIA man who wrote it, the CIA was the one that did it and did all the important things, and the Department of Defense did not step up at the appropriate time.
Have you had an opportunity to review the general operations of the CIA in Afghanistan and the interaction with the Department of Defense there?
HAYDEN: No, sir, I have not looked at it in detail.
BOND: We'll talk about that later.
Probably the final question: There was some objection within the agency to the DNI sending two dozen CT analysts to the National Counterterrorism Center as part of the lanes in the road.
BOND: Do you think that the objections from within the agency were justified? And to what extent should the NCTC be engaged in the all-source terrorism analysis? To what extent should the CIA do the same?
HAYDEN: Sir, it's a complicated question. But the truth in lending, obviously I agree with you because that's what I was trying to do in my current job as Ambassador Negroponte's deputy.
This is actually what I was trying to refer to in my opening remarks when I talked about, you know, conforming the shape of the CIA to meet the new intelligence structure which you have all legislated, while still sustaining high OPSTEMPO current CIA operations. I mean, that's the dilemma right there.
Briefly, and perhaps in a later round or this afternoon, Senator, we can get into more detail but briefly, here is what I see the challenge is: Right now, in a really good, in a really powerful sense, a lot of the engines of American intelligence are attached to today's very successful operational activities.
And the fact that Director Goss and the president and others can say that some significant percentage -- and it's a big number -- of that organization that attacked us in 2001 has been killed or captured is a product of all of that focus. But this is a long war. And it's not just going to be won with heat and blast and fragmentation. It is fundamentally a war of ideas. And we have to skew our intelligence to support the other elements of national power as well.
HAYDEN: That's the tough decision: how best to allocate our resources and then apportion it organizationally.
So you keep up this high OPSTEMPO that has Al Qaida on its back foot right now while still underpinning all of the other efforts of the U.S. government that over the long term -- over the long term -- cuts the production rate of those who want to kill us and those who hate us rather than simply dealing with those who already have that view.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. Our special coverage will continue, the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden.
We're waiting for Democrats to start asking the questions. That's going to begin momentarily.
Also, we'll be speaking separately with Dianne Feinstein, a key member, Saxby Chambliss. We'll get their reaction as well.
Remember, this is the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to become the director of the CIA.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're watching the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to be the next CIA director. The Democrat, the leading Democrat today on this committee, Carl Levin of Michigan, has just started asking questions. Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat, is ill, recovering from back surgery.
The question focuses in on the reports that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of the American people.
HAYDEN: ... on the end of the spectrum toward security.
And then I told the workforce -- and this has actually been quoted elsewhere -- I told the workforce there are going to be a lot of pressures to push that banner down toward security. And our job at NSA was to keep America free by making Americans feel safe again. So this balance between security and liberty was foremost in our mind.
LEVIN: Does that mean your answer to my question is yes?
HAYDEN: Senator, I understand. There are privacy concerns involved in all of this. There's privacy concerns involved in the routine activities of NSA.
LEVIN: Would you say there are privacy concerns involved in this program?
HAYDEN: I can certainly understand why someone would be concerned about this.
LEVIN: But that's not my question, General. It's a direct question.
LEVIN: In your judgment, are there privacy...
HAYDEN: You want me to say yes or no.
LEVIN: I want you to say whatever you believe.
HAYDEN: Yes, sir. Here's what I believe. Clearly the privacy of American citizens is a concern, constantly. And it's a concern in this program, it's a concern in everything we've done.
LEVIN: That's a little different from the Press Club statement where basically you said the only privacy concern is involved in international phone calls.
HAYDEN: No, sir, I don't think it's different. I was very clear in what I said there, I was very careful with my language.
LEVIN: Is that the only privacy concern in this program, international phone calls?
HAYDEN: Senator, I don't know how to answer your question. I've just answered that there are privacy concerns with everything that we do, of course. We always balance privacy and security, and we do it within the law.
LEVIN: The only privacy concern, though, in this program relate to international phone calls?
HAYDEN: Senator, what I was talking about in January at the press club was what -- the program that the president had confirmed. It was the program...
LEVIN: That he had confirmed publicly?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir, that he confirmed publicly. And I said...
LEVIN: Is that the whole program?
HAYDEN: Senator, I'm not at liberty to talk about that in open session.
LEVIN: I'm not asking you what the program is, I'm just simply saying, is what the president described publicly the whole program.
HAYDEN: Senator, all I'm at liberty to say in this session is what I was talking about, and I literally, explicitly said this at the press club, I am talking about the program the president discussed in mid-December.
LEVIN: And you're not able to tell us whether what the president described is the whole program?
HAYDEN: No, sir, not in open session. I am delighted to go into great detail in closed session.
LEVIN: The NSA program that the New York Times on March 14th reported about said that NSA lawyers, while you were the director of the agency, opposed the vice president's efforts to authorize the NSA to, quote, "intercept purely domestic telephone calls." Is that story accurate?
HAYDEN: I could recognize a thin vein of my experience inside the story, but I would not characterize how you described the Times story as being accurate. I can give you a few more notes on that, Senator.
LEVIN: But were there differences between the...
LEVIN: ... NSA and the Vice President's Office about what the desirable scope of this program was?
HAYDEN: No, sir. There were discussions about what we could do. Our intent all along, in my discussions, was to do what it is the program does as described, one end of these calls always being foreign.
And as we went forward, we attempted to make it very clear that that's all we were doing and that's all we were authorized to do.
LEVIN: All right. So there were no differences of opinion between your office -- between the NSA and...
HAYDEN: There were no arguments, no pushback, no "We want to," no "We won't" -- none of that. No, sir.
LEVIN: Thank you, General.
What was the view of NSA lawyers on the argument that was made by the administration that the authorization for use of military force which was passed by the Congress authorized this program? Did your people agree with that?
HAYDEN: I'd ask you to ask them directly for the details.
LEVIN: Do you know whether they...
HAYDEN: No, sir. I'll continue -- there's more to be said.
But when I talked to the NSA lawyers, most of my personal dialogue with them, they were very comfortable with the Article II arguments and the president's inherent authorities.
LEVIN: Does that mean that they were not comfortable with the argument that...
HAYDEN: I wouldn't say that. But when they came to me and we discussed its lawfulness, our discussion anchored itself on Article II.
LEVIN: And they made no comment about the authority which was argued by some coming from the authorization of military force?
HAYDEN: Not strongly, one way or the another. It was Article II.
LEVIN: During the confirmation hearings of Porter Goss, I asked him whether or not he would correct the public statement of a policy- maker if that public statement went beyond the intelligence.
And here's what Mr. Goss said: "If I were confronted with that kind of a hypothetical where I felt that a policy-maker was getting beyond what the intelligence said, I think I would advise the person involved. I do believe that would be a case that would put me into action if I were confirmed. Yes, sir."
Do you agree with Porter Goss?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir, I think that's a pretty good statement.
LEVIN: An independent review for the CIA, conducted by a panel led by Richard Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA, said the following -- and this relates to the intelligence prior to the Iraq war -- "Requests for reporting and analysis of Iraq's links to Al Qaida were steady and heavy in the period leading up to the war, creating significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection."
Do you agree with Mr. Kerr?
HAYDEN: Sir, I -- as director of NSA, we did have a series of inquiries about this potential connection between Al Qaida and the Iraqi government. Yes, sir.
LEVIN: Now, prior to the war, the undersecretary of defense for policy, Mr. Feith, established an intelligence analysis cell within his policy office at the Defense Department.
LEVIN: While the intelligence community was consistently dubious about links between Iraq and Al Qaida, Mr. Feith produced an alternative analysis, asserting that there was a strong connection.
Were you comfortable with Mr. Feith's office's approach to intelligence analysis?
HAYDEN: No, sir, I wasn't. I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. No, sir, I wasn't comfortable.
LEVIN: In our meeting in our office, you indicated -- well, what were you uncomfortable about? Let me... HAYDEN: Well, there were a couple of things. And thank you for the opportunity to elaborate, because these aren't simple issues.
As I tried to say in my statement, there are a lot of things that animate and inform a policy-maker's judgment, and intelligence is one of them, and, you know, world view, and there are a whole bunch of other things that are very legitimate.
The role of intelligence, I try to say it here by metaphor because it's the best way I can describe it, is you've got to draw the left- and the right-hand boundaries. The tether to your analysis can't be so long, so stretched that it gets out of those left- and right-hand boundaries.
Now, with regard to this particular case, it is possible, Senator, if you want to drill down on an issue and just get laser beam focused, and exhaust every possible -- every possible ounce of evidence, you can build up a pretty strong body of data, right? But you have to know what you're doing, all right?
I got three great kids, but if you tell me go out and find all the bad things they've done, Hayden, I can build you a pretty good dossier, and you'd think they were pretty bad people, because that was I was looking for and that's what I'd build up.
That would be very wrong. That would be inaccurate. That would be misleading.
It's one thing to drill down, and it's legitimate to drill down. And that was a real big and real important question. But at the end of the day, when you draw your analysis, you have to recognize that you've really laser beam focused on one particular data set. And you have to put that factor into the equation before you start drawing macro judgments.
LEVIN: You in my office discussed, I think, a very interesting approach, which is the difference between starting with a conclusion and trying to prove it and instead starting with digging into all the facts and seeing where they take you.
Would you just describe for us that difference and why you feel, I think, that that related to the difference between what intelligence should be and what some people were doing, including that Feith office.
HAYDEN: Yes, sir. And I actually think I prefaced that with both of these are legitimate forms of reasoning, that you've got deductive -- and the product of, you know, 18 years of Catholic education, I know a lot about deductive reasoning here.
There's an approach to the world in which you begin with, first, principles and then you work your way down the specifics.
And then there's an inductive approach to the world in which you start out there with all the data and work yourself up to general principles. They are both legitimate. But the only one I'm allowed to do is induction.
LEVIN: Allowed to do as an intelligence...
HAYDEN: As an intelligence officer is induction.
And so, now, what happens when induction meets deduction, Senator? Well, that's my left- and right-hand boundaries metaphor.
LEVIN: Now, I believe that you actually placed a disclaimer on NSA reporting relative to any links between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. And it was apparently following the repeated inquiries from the Feith office. Would you just tell us what that disclaimer was?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
SIGINT neither confirms nor denies -- and let me stop at that point in the sentence so we can stay safely on the side of unclassified.
SIGINT neither confirms nor denies, and then we finished the sentence based upon the question that was asked. And then we provided the data, sir.
LEVIN: I think that you've commented on this before and I may have missed it and, if so, you can just rely on your previous comment.
But there's been press reports that you had some disagreements with Secretary Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Cambone with respect to the reform legislation that we were looking at relating to DNI and other intelligence-related matters.
Can you tell us whether or not that is accurate; there were disagreements between you and the defense secretary? Because some people say you're just going to be the instrument of the defense secretary. And if those reports are right, this would be an example where you disagree with the defense secretary, who -- after all, you wear a uniform and he is the secretary of defense. Are those reports accurate?
HAYDEN: Sir, let me recharacterize them.
The secretary and I did discuss this. I think it's what diplomats would call that frank and wide-ranging exchange of views. He treated me with respect.
A couple of footnotes just to put some texture to this. I then testified in closed session to the HPSCI on different aspects of the pending legislation. It was unclassified testimony, even though the session was closed.
DOD put my testimony on their Web site. NSA didn't. And so that to me was a pretty telling step, that this was an open exchange of views.
It's been a little bit mischaracterized, too. I did not say: Move those big three letter muscular agencies outside of DOD. My solution was something like the founding fathers: enumerated powers. Don't get bollixed around on writing a theory of federalism. Just write down what you what the federal government to do.
My view was you needed to write down what authorities the DNI had over NSA, NGA and NRO. The fact that they stayed inside the Department of Defense was actually pretty uninteresting -- as long as you had these enumerated powers that Ambassador Negroponte now has: money, tasking, policy, personnel, classification.
LEVIN: Is it fair to say that on some of those issues there were differences between you and Secretary Rumsfeld?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: General, there's been a great deal of debate over the treatment of detainees. Do we have one set of rules now that governs the interrogation of detainees, regardless of who is doing the interrogating and regardless of where the interrogations take place.
HAYDEN: Senator, I'll go into more detail on this this afternoon. But I do have some things I'd like to say in open session.
Obviously, we're going to follow the law, we're going to respect all of America's international responsibilities.
In the Detainee Treatment Act, the language is quite clear. It talks about all prisoners of war under the control of the Department of Defense being handled in a way consistent with the Army Field Manual, and then a separate section of the law that requires all agencies of the U.S. government to handle detainees wherever they may be located in a way that is not cruel, inhumane or degrading.
And that's the formula that we will follow.
LEVIN: And the CIA is bound by that formula?
HAYDEN: All agencies of the U.S. government are bound by that formula. Yes, sir.
LEVIN: Then by definition...
HAYDEN: Yes, sir. By definition, any agency.
LEVIN: ... the CIA is included in that?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: And so that means -- or let me ask you, rather than putting words in your mouth -- does that mean that the CIA and its personnel and contractors are required to comply at all times in all locations in the same manner as military personnel with the following laws or treaties: A, the Geneva Conventions?
HAYDEN: Senator, again, let me refer you to the language in the Detainee Treatment Act, which actually does make a distinction between prisoners of war under the effective control of the Department of Defense, and the second broader description that applies throughout the rest of the government about cruel, inhuman and degrading.
LEVIN: Are you unable, then, to answer that question?
HAYDEN: No, sir, I'm not.
LEVIN: Then what about the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir. All parts, all agencies of the U.S. government will respect our international obligations.
LEVIN: Including that one?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 you just described?
HAYDEN: Right. Yes, sir. Absolutely consistent with that.
Sir, can I put a footnote on the previous one?
HAYDEN: Obviously, with the reservations that have been stipulated by the U.S. government in the ratification of that treaty.
LEVIN: Finally, the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation?
HAYDEN: The Army Field Manual, as the Detainee Treatment Act clearly points out, specifically applies to prisoners under the effective control of the Department of Defense.
LEVIN: And therefore the CIA, you do not believe, is bound by that language?
HAYDEN: Again, the legislation does not explicitly or implicitly, I believe, bind anyone beyond the Department of Defense, Senator.
LEVIN: My time is up. Thank you very much.
HAYDEN: Thank you, Senator.
ROBERTS: Senator DeWine?
BLITZER: We're going continue to monitor the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden, our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Very important questions raised by Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's effectively today the ranking Democrat no this Senate Intelligence Committee because Jay Rockefeller is recovering from back surgery.
Much more of our coverage continuing. If you want uninterrupted coverage and you're near a computer, go to CNN.com/pipeline. Our Pipeline is bringing you these hearings uninterrupted.
Much more of our coverage from THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're in the SITUATION ROOM. Our special coverage of the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden will continue. He's slated to become the next CIA director, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Much more of the Q&A coming up.
BLITZER: We're still watching the hearings unfold, the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden, to become the next CIA director. They're continuing the questioning, and our special coverage will continue right after this short break.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're covering the confirmation hearings of General Michael Hayden to become the next CIA director. The questioning continuing. Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, asking questions right now. We'll go back there in a moment. I want to bring in some of our reporters who are watching this, beginning with our national security correspondent, David Ensor.
David, there was a very interesting exchange we heard involving alleged Pentagon efforts by former Pentagon official Doug Fife, a top aide to Donald Rumsfeld of Paul Wolfowitz, to supposedly try to pressure the intelligence community into coming up with conclusions on an al Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein.
David, I don't know if you can hear me. Clearly he's not hearing me. But John McLaughlin, our national security advisor, former deputy director of the CIA, is hearing me. This is a sensitive issue. The relationship between the intelligence community and the Pentagon.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATL. SECURITY ADVISER: Well, the issue they were talking about is something that went on during the administration. It's not something that the civilian intelligence community knew a lot about at that time. The Pentagon amassed a lot of data on this issue. I did not seek to speak for the intelligence community, I will say that. And the thrust of it differed somewhat from the main conclusion that the intelligence community as a body came up with, to the effect that, yes, there had been contacts between al Qaeda and Saddam, but there was not a relationship of operational control either way.
BLITZER: Because the argument that we've heard, the allegation, is that the Pentagon, Rumsfeld and company, were not happy with what the intelligence community, you guys, were giving them on the al Qaeda/Saddam connection. So they, in effect, wanted to create their own intelligence organization, a new one in the Pentagon that would come up with the conclusions they wanted.
MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know whether they were happy or unhappy, or whether that general impression is overstated or not. Clearly, people in the administration, many of them, had stronger conviction than existed in the intelligence community about the strength of this relationship. And, as the general indicated in his remarks, the intelligence community was questioned repeatedly on this issue, and every time went and looked for more information and dug deeper and deeper and deeper.
BLITZER: Is that appropriate for policymakers that, in effect, pressure and repeatedly question the intelligence community if they don't get the answers they necessarily want?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's a complicated issue. I think it is appropriate for them to ask as many questions as they want to ask. The question you're raising, Wolf, is there a line here where the persistent questioning turns into pressure? Personally, I never felt that way. In other words, it's the duty of intelligence officers to answer the question. The key is to answer them honestly, forthrightly, and as the general indicated, making clear what you know, what you don't know and what you think and drawing a distinction between those things. But intelligence business is there to answer questions.
BLITZER: David Ensor, our national security correspondent, has been avidly listening to all of the exchanges. Give me a couple of initial impressions on what you see, David.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You know, you see a committee that's very interested in the intelligence business, and getting into the weeds a little bit in ways that perhaps the public might find confusing.
But an interesting, in the weeds issue, but it's really a very important one that Senator DeWine was just raising. He was questioning whether the CIA really has gotten into the business of putting spies out there with non-official cover. In other words, spies that aren't protected by diplomatic identity or some identity that's very well known, but spies that are really down in the system there that might actually even be, say, getting into al Qaeda as members.
That sort of thing is very difficult to pull off. Senator DeWine doesn't think it's being done well, and he's sharply questioning the prospective new director as to whether he's going to make that happen one way or another. It's a good question.
BLITZER: Because of the criticism, David, as you note, that the CIA has not been very good in the human intelligence side, planting agents inside organizations who want to do harm to the United States.
ENSOR: Exactly. In the Cold War, they were fairly good at figuring out what the Soviet Union was up to. But it was a very large, not very movable target. But when you're going after al Qaeda or some of its affiliates, you've got to really into the weeds and you've got to have spies in all kinds of strange places. And his point is, you know, is the CIA going to learn to do this? He doesn't think they're doing it well enough yet.
BLITZER: Andrea Koppel is our congressional correspondent. Andrea, you've been watching all of this unfold, as well. Give us a thought.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what struck me so far is really the dichotomy that we're seeing between the Republicans and the Democrats and their line of questioning to General Hayden. In particular, the top Democrat on the committee, Carl Levin, got to the issue in his questioning right off the top, asking General Hayden if the press reports about the eavesdropping and about the gathering of phone records of millions of Americans were true.
And really, you could sense the frustration and the anger that Democrats are feeling. And that was coming through in the exchange that the two men had. The anger of Democrats, that they feel that they've been misled by the administration, by President Bush, by Secretary Rumsfeld. And they feel that they've been kept out of the loop. You could hear General Hayden, in his response trying to talk about the difficulty of balancing national security on the one hand with privacy issues of Americans. He says it's something they deal with every day, and clearly, in the case of the eavesdropping program, he was saying that national security was something that came first and foremost in the wake of 9/11 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Andrea, thank you. Candy Crowley is here, our senior political correspondent. I want to play a little excerpt from this exchange that General Hayden had on the whole Doug Fife effort. He was a top Pentagon official. He's left the Pentagon in recent months. Supposedly trying to influence the intelligence community to come up with conclusion that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Secretary of defense for policy, Mr. Fife, established an intelligence analysis, so within his policy office at the Defense Department. While the intelligence community was consistently dubious about links between Iraq and al Qaeda, Mr. Fife produced an alternative analysis, asserting that there was a strong connection. Were you comfortable with Mr. Fife's office approach to intelligence analysis?
HAYDEN: No, sir, I wasn't. I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. But, no, sir, I wasn't comfortable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A blunt answer from the guy who wants to be the next CIA director. Obviously distancing himself from Donald Rumsfeld; Paul Wolfowitz, the former number two at the Pentagon; Doug Fife, who was the undersecretary. Clearly saying he wasn't comfortable with what they were trying to come up with at the Pentagon. CROWLEY: And here's how that questioning helps this nominee. Because what was one of the major problems coming in -- oh, my goodness, he's a military guy, now it's going to mean that the military is going to be in charge of everything having to do with intelligence, and that's not a good idea.
It goes on in that exchange to talk about whether he had any differences with Secretary Rumsfeld on another issue. And he said, well, we had frank discussions, using that sort of diplomatic thing. So for Hayden to put distance between himself and the Pentagon chief is a good thing in terms of answering some of the criticism. So in that sense, Senator Levin helped him.
BLITZER: Let me let John McLaughlin weigh in, as well.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I was going to say, this is typical of Mike Hayden and genuine. He's a person of principle and he will generally say what he believes to be true. He will take a position and he will let the chips fall where they may.
During the run-up to the legislation that produced the DNI's office, a number of us -- General Hayden, myself, another general who runs an agency akin to the NSA -- all argued, publicly, for greater powers than the Congress ultimately gave to the director of national intelligence. And the Congress was reluctant, in part because of the view expressed until the Armed Services Committee that that would be inappropriate in terms of giving Negroponte greater authority over defense-related agencies.
But General Hayden was forthright on that point. And I think it was an honest difference of opinion with the secretary of defense that he expressed clearly. And that's what I would expect of him as a CIA director.
BLITZER: All right, John, stand by. Candy stand by. All of our reporters. We're going to take another short break. Remember, if you want to watch these hearings uninterrupted and you're near a computer, go to CNN.com/pipeline. Our service there will bring it to you uninterrupted.
We'll take a quick break. We've got some new poll numbers coming out. A new CNN poll on many of the questions being raised during this controversial confirmation hearing. Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: General Michael Hayden is answering questions from Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tough questions on the authorization to go forward with some of these controversial programs.
Let's listen in to General Hayden.
HAYDEN: ... knowing that you are prevented by law from telling them everything you know. That's what I did while I was speaking in front of the National Press Club. I chose my words very carefully because I knew that some day I would be having this conversations.
I chose my words very carefully because I wanted to be honest with the people I was addressing. And it wasn't that handful of folks downtown. It was looking into the cameras and talking to the American people.
I bounded my remarks by the program that the president has described in his December radio address. It was the program that was being publicly discussed.
And the key points in my remarks -- I pointedly and consciously down-shifted the language I was using.
When I was talking about a drift net over Lackawanna or Fremont or other cities, I switched from the word "communications" to the much more specific and unarguably accurate "conversations."
And I went on in the speech and later in my question-and-answer period to say: We do not use the content of communications to decide which communications we want to study the content of.
In other words, when we looked at the content of a communication, everything between "hello" and "goodbye," we had already established a probable cause standard -- to a probable cause standard, that we had reason to believe that that communication, one or both of those communicants were associated with Al Qaida.
Senator, I was as full and open as I possibly could be.
In addition, my natural instincts, which I think all of you have seen, is to be as full and open as law and policy allow when I'm talking to you as well.
Anyone who's gotten a briefing on the terrorist surveillance program from me -- and up until yesterday that was everybody who had ever gotten a briefing on the terrorist surveillance program -- I would be shocked if they thought I was hiding anything.
There was only one purpose in my briefing, and that was to make sure that everyone who was getting that briefing fully understood what NSA was doing.
Now, Senator, I know you and other members of the committee have concerns that we've gone from two to five to seven to the full committee. I understand that. I told you in my opening remarks what my instincts were in terms of briefing the full committee. There's a very, very crude airman's metaphor that talks about, if you want people at the crash, you got to put them on the manifest.
U.S. SENATOR RON WYDEN (D-OR): General, let me...
HAYDEN: Let me make just one more remark, OK? And so my personal commitment is to be as open as possible. I cannot commit, Senator, to resolving the inherent stresses between Article I and Article II of the Constitution that were intentionally put in there by the founding fathers.
WYDEN: General, I'm focused just on the public record. You know, I'm going to go out and try now to dissect what you have just said and compare it to those other...
HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
WYDEN: But let me give you a very quick example.
WYDEN: The Trailblazer program: As you know, I'm committed to being careful about discussing this in public -- sensitive information, technology program. But as you know, I asked you about this in open session...
HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
WYDEN: ... when you were up to be deputy DNI.
I went back and looked at the record, and you said, "Senator Wyden, we are overachieving on that program." Those were your words.
I opened up the Newsweek magazine this week. And there are quoted -- again, just out of a news report -- reports that there's $1 billion worth of software laying around, people who have decades of experience saying -- I think their quote was "a complete and abject failure."
And so I ask you again -- I'm concerned about a pattern where you say one thing in these open kind of hearings, and then I and others have got to get a good clipping service to try to figure out what independent people are saying and then to reconcile them.
So were you accurate when you came, in an open session, to say that the Trailblazer program was overachieving?
HAYDEN: Senator, the open session you're referring to, was that last year during the confirmation?
HAYDEN: OK, thanks.
Senator, I will promise you, I will go back and read my words. But what my memory tells me I said was that a lot of the failure in the Trailblazer program was in the fact we were trying to overachieve, we were throwing deep and we should have been throwing short passes -- if you want to use a metaphor -- and that a lot of the failure was we were trying to do too much all at once.
We should have been less grandiose, not gone for moon shots and been tighter in, more specific, looking at concrete results, closer in rather than overachieving by reaching too far.
My memory is that's what I was describing. I can't ever think of my saying we were overachieving in Trailblazer. That was a tough program, Senator.
WYDEN: Those were your words, General. And again, I question using your word -- open session -- whether we have gotten, on that particular program, the level of forthcoming statements that is warranted.
And to me, this is a pattern and something that has made me ask these questions about credibility.
Now, to move on to the next area, for 200 years, our government has operated on the proposition that the people must have some sort of independent check on the government. Americans want to trust their leaders, but they also want checks and balances to ensure...
BLITZER: We'll take a quick break in these confirmation hearings. Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon, asking some tough questions. We'll explain what's going on.
Much more of the confirmation hearings right after this.
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