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Hayden nomination moves to full Senate

Intelligence Committee endorses CIA director nominee 12-3

Gen. Michael Hayden faces senators at his confirmation hearing Thursday.


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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 Tuesday in favor of Gen. Michael Hayden to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, sending his nomination to the floor for a vote by the full Senate.

The vote was taken during a closed-door hearing. The committee's chairman, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, urged the Senate to take up the nomination before it begins its Memorial Day recess at the end of the week.

"We think he's an outstanding choice to head the CIA. He is a proven leader and a supremely qualified intelligence professional," Roberts said.

"I believe if we can get this nomination on the floor and approved certainly before the end of the week, if our colleagues across the aisle will join us, in a bipartisan way we can fill this very critical national security position," he said.

Eight Republicans and seven Democrats serve on the committee. The three negative votes came from Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Evan Bayh of Indiana.

Wyden said he voted against Hayden because he "could not resolve" the general's comments with newspaper reports on the administration's domestic eavesdropping activities.

That included a report in USA Today last week that the National Security Agency is collecting the phone records of millions of Americans without a warrant.

Hayden, who was NSA director when President Bush authorized the eavesdropping program in October 2001, is now deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

"I feel very strongly that 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," Wyden said.

Feingold issued a statement saying he voted against Hayden "because I am not convinced that the nominee respects the rule of law and Congress' oversight responsibilities."

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a key Democrat who serves as the ranking member on Armed Services Committee, said he voted for Hayden because the four-star Air Force general has demonstrated the independence needed for the job.

"He has shown some independence and some backbone and a willingness to say no to power because you've got to have someone in this position who speaks truth to power," Levin said.

"That's the most important feature, I believe, of this position that we look for."

Hayden, who led the NSA from 1999 to 2005, told senators during his nomination hearing last week that he would determine what the American public needs to know and what will remain secret if he is confirmed to take the reins of the embattled CIA.

Saying U.S. intelligence has become "the football in American political discourse," Hayden staunchly defended the NSA's domestic eavesdropping program, saying that if it had been in place before the attacks of September 11, 2001, authorities would have caught two of the 19 hijackers.

If confirmed, Hayden will replace outgoing CIA director Porter Goss, who resigned this month after losing what intelligence sources described as a power struggle with Negroponte.

Negroponte has denied that a rift was the reason for Goss' departure.

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