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Bush adviser: Hayden 'an independent thinker'

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National security adviser Stephen Hadley

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Michael Hayden
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday nominated Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as director of the CIA.

Hayden, 61, is the principal deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. If confirmed by the Senate, Hayden would replace Porter Goss, who abruptly resigned the CIA post Friday.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley discussed the selection Monday with CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien on "American Morning."

O'BRIEN: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee [Rep. Peter Hoekstra], a Republican, says Gen. Hayden is the wrong guy. How concerned are you about this nomination?

HADLEY: We think it is a strong nomination. Gen. Hayden is the president's nominee to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the president strongly believes he's the best man for the job. Gen. Hayden has broad experience in the intelligence community. He has been an agent of change. He took over the National Security Agency, the part of the government that deals with what's called signals intelligence, and he really brought that agency into the 21st century. ...

He has been head of Air Force intelligence, which has required him to get involved in all aspects of the intelligence business.

He served in [our] embassy in Bulgaria, which involved him in the human intelligence business. He has also been a consumer of intelligence, serving on the National Security Council staff under President George Herbert Walker Bush. So this is a man of broad experience. He is clearly the best person to take on this important assignment.

O'BRIEN: There are critics who say, sir, that the fact that he is active military is a big problem. Do you think it's a big problem, and do you think that he needs to resign his commission?

HADLEY: We really don't. There have been other directors of the Central Intelligence Agency who have been military officers. There are military officers serving in that agency because obviously there's an important military piece to our intelligence.

The president actually thinks it's a strength. He understands the military aspect of the intelligence business. But as I say, he's also had broad experience, and can be an integrator and an agent of reform.

So we think that the trick here is not whether he's military or civilian. There are established precedents for military officers serving. The key question is who's the right person for the job, and the president has concluded that's Mike Hayden.

O'BRIEN: But the fact that he's active military raises a couple of questions. So let's get to those questions. The first would be critics who say, well, who's he really reporting to? I mean, is he here to protect the interests of the CIA? Is he aligned, really, with the intelligence director, John Negroponte, to whom he was No. 2, or is he reporting essentially to [Defense] Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld? I mean, shouldn't there be some independence? As an active military officer, that raises some problems, doesn't it?

HADLEY: Well, anyone who knows Mike Hayden knows that he is a patriot and a professional, and is an independent thinker. He has not been shy about expressing his views. And if you look at the process of intelligence reform, I think you will discover that he was very outspoken in what he thought was required of intelligence reform at the time of -- he was head of the National Security Agency. And his views were quite independent. They didn't accord with either what, at the time, Secretary Rumsfeld was talking about or others were talking about.

O'BRIEN: Another concern, and as you well know, the Pentagon controls the vast amount of intelligence. So a concern would be, well, a general who's running the CIA. Wouldn't that kind of give a military perspective to intelligence that really should be independent, independent even of the Pentagon?

HADLEY: Well, the point about Gen. Hayden, of course, is the one that while he wears a military uniform and has had assignments in the military intelligence business, he is, as I mentioned, a man of broad experience. He has a perspective that has been shaped by assignments both in the military and outside the military.

And of course his most recent responsibility as deputy director of national intelligence has been to integrate all aspects of our intelligence, military and civilian, into a single intelligence enterprise, if you will.

We think the fact that he understands the military intelligence business is an important part of allowing him to serve that role. Because one of the challenges for the CIA is going to be to play its part in the intelligence community as a whole.

So we can take the human intelligence the Central Intelligence Agency is so intimately involved in, fuse it with the technical intelligence and the imaging intelligence into the kind of integrated products that can give intelligence consumers what they need to know to make important policy decisions. We think it's a strength.

O'BRIEN: Final quick question for you, sir: Why did Porter Goss quit? Was he frustrated? Was it fighting with John Negroponte?

HADLEY: Not at all. He and John Negroponte have known each other for a long, long time; they've gotten along very well, and together they have served the president well.

Porter had talked from time to time about leaving national public service. He had, I think, viewed himself as a transitional figure from the outset. The reform process is a very difficult one.

And his plans were accelerated when the president made it clear that he wanted to get in place as soon as possible the team that will carry him through his second term. And that I think accelerated Porter's plans.

He has been a change agent at the CIA; he has begun a reform process there, and [it] will give Mike Hayden a lot to work with, should the Senate confirm him for that job, as we hope they will do and do promptly.

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