Statement of Senator Carl Levin on the Nomination of General Michael Hayden forDirector of the Central Intelligence Agency
Statement as prepared for delivery
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The nomination of a new Director for the Central Intelligence Agency comes at a time when the Agency is in disarray. Its current Director has apparently been forced out, and the previous Director, George Tenet, left under a cloud after having compromised his own objectivity and independence, and that of his Agency, by misusing Iraq intelligence to support the Administrations policy agenda.
The next Director must right this ship and restore the CIA to its critically important position. To do so, the highest priority of the new Director must be to ensure that intelligence provided to the President and the Congress is in the words of the new reform law timely, objective, (and) independent of political considerations. That language described the role of the Director of National Intelligence, but as General Hayden himself has stated: This responsibility applies not only to the DNI and D/CIA, personally, but to all intelligence produced by the Intelligence Community.
The need for objective, independent intelligence and analysis is surely as great now as it has ever been. The war on terrorism and the nuclear intentions and capabilities of Iran and North Korea could be life and death issues. Heaven help us if we have more intelligence fiascos similar to those before the Iraq war, when, in the words of the head of British intelligence, the U.S. intelligence was being fixed around the policy.
General Hayden has the background and credentials for the position of CIA Director, but this job requires more than an impressive resume. One major question for me is whether General Hayden will restore analytical independence and objectivity at the CIA and speak truth to power, or whether he will shape intelligence to support Administration policy and mislead Congress and the American people, as Director Tenet did.Another major question is General Haydens views on electronic surveillance of American citizens.
The war on terrorism not only requires objective, independent intelligence analysis, it also requires us to strike a thoughtful balance between our liberty and our security. Over the past six months, we have been engaged in a national debate about the NSAs electronic surveillance program and the telephone records of American citizens. That debate has been hobbled because so much about the program remains classified. Public accounts about it are mainly references by the Administration which are selective and incomplete, or the result of unverifiable leaks.
For example, the Administration has repeatedly characterized the electronic surveillance program as applying only to international phone calls and not involving any domestic surveillance. In January the President said: the program focuses on calls coming from outside the United States... but not domestic calls.
In February, the Vice President said: Some of our critics call this a, domestic surveillance program. Wrong. That is inaccurate. It is not domestic surveillance.
Ambassador Negroponte said: This is a program that was ordered by the president of the United States with respect to international telephone calls to or from suspected Al Qaeda operatives and their affiliates.... This was not about domestic surveillance.
Earlier this year General Hayden appeared before the Press Club where he said of the program: the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls.
After listening to the Administrations characterizations for many months, America woke up last Thursday to the USA Today headline: NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls. The report said that The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth... The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.
The President says we need to know who Al Qaeda is calling in America. We surely do. But the USA Today article describes a government program where the government keeps a data base a record of the phone numbers that tens of millions of Americans with no ties to Al Qaeda are calling or are being called from. And the May 12 New York Times article quotes one senior government official who confirmed that the N.S.A. had access to records of most telephone calls in the United States.
We are not permitted, of course, to publicly assess the accuracy of these reports. But listen to what people who have been briefed on the program have been able to say publicly. Stephen Hadley, the Presidents National Security Advisor, after talking about what the USA Today article didnt claim, said the following: It's really about calling records, if you read the story: who was called when, and how long did they talk? And these are business records that have been held by the courts not to be protected by a right of privacy. And there are a variety of ways in which these records lawfully can be provided to the government . . . it's hard to find the privacy issue here.
Majority Leader Frist has publicly stated that the program is voluntary.And a member of this committee has said: The President's program uses information collected from phone companies - the phone companies keep their records. They have a record. And it shows what telephone number called what other telephone number.
So the leaks are producing piecemeal disclosures although the program remains highly classified. Disclosing parts of the program that might be the most palatable and acceptable to the American people while maintaining secrecy about parts that may be troubling to the public until they are leaked is unacceptable.
Moreover, when Stephen Hadley, the Presidents National Security Advisor, says that its hard to find a privacy issue here, I cant buy that. Its not hard to see how Americans could feel that their privacy has been intruded upon if the government has, as
USA Today reports, a database of phone numbers calling and being called by tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. It is hard to see however if the leaks about this program are accurate how the only intrusions into Americans privacy are related to international phone calls as General Hayden said at the National Press Club. And its certainly not hard to see the potential for abuse and the need for an effective check in law on the governments use of that information.
I welcome General Hayden to the Committee, thank him for his decades of service to our nation, and look forward to hearing his views.