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2006-05-08

Fmr. NSA Chief General Michael Hayden Nominated to Replace Porter Goss as CIA Director

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Porter Goss resigns as director of the CIA. Four star general Michael Hayden has been nominated to head the civilian agency. As head of the National Security Agency, Hayden oversaw the warrantless domestic spy program, which many say is illegal. We speak with former CIA analyst Larry Johnson and Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff. [includes rush transcript]

On Friday, CIA director Porter Goss abruptly resigned after less than two years on the job. President Bush made the announcement at the Oval Office sitting next to Goss and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. Goss spoke after the President made the announcement.

  • Porter Goss, outgoing CIA director.

Both the President and Goss have kept quiet about the reasons behind Goss’s resignation. When a CNN reporter asked him about it on Saturday as we was leaving his home, Goss said only "it is one of those mysteries." But The Washington Post quoted anonymous senior administration officials saying that Bush lost confidence in Goss early on and it had been decided months ago that he would be replaced. Goss who is a former congressman from Florida, had also come under increasing pressure as allegations arose that he and a top aide, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, may have attended poker parties where bribes and prostitutes were provided to now jailed congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Foggo is the Executive Director of the Agency and is under internal review. He also may be indicted by the FBI for his role in the Cunningham scandal. After Goss’s announcement Foggo told his colleagues that he would resign next week.

This morning, President Bush nominated General Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss. Hayden is the deputy director of National Intelligence and the former director of the National Security Agency. It’s expected that Hayden would face a contentions confirmation process over the administration’s domestic spying program, which is run by the NSA. Here is Hayden speaking at a rare news conference in January defending the spying program. He was questioned by Knight Ridder reporter Jonathan Landay.

  • Michael Hayden, press conference January 23, 2006.

For the record, the Fourth Amendment is: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."

To talk more with us about the Goss resignation and the Hayden appointment, we are joined by two guests:

  • Larry Johnson, former CIA agent and former Fox News contributor.
  • Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for Newsweek.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, C.I.A. director Porter Goss abruptly resigned after less than two years on the job. President Bush made the announcement at the Oval Office, sitting next to Goss and Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte. Goss spoke after the President made the announcement.

PORTER GOSS: It has been a very distinct honor and privilege to serve you, of course, the people of the country and the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency. I can tell you, the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me and given me the latitude to work is something I could never have imagined, and I am most grateful for it. I would like to report back to you that I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation’s intelligence capabilities, which are, in fact, the things that I think are keeping us very safe, and I honestly would report to you, sir, that we are safer for your efforts, your leadership.

AMY GOODMAN: Both the President and Goss have kept quiet about the reasons behind Goss’s resignation. When a CNN reporter asked him about it on Saturday as he was leaving his home, Goss said only, quote, "It is one of those mysteries," but the Washington Post quoted an anonymous senior administration official, saying that Bush lost confidence in Goss early on, and it had been decided months ago he’d be replaced. Goss is a former congressman from Florida, had also come under increasing pressure as allegations arose that he and a top aide, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, may have attended poker parties where bribes and prostitutes were provided to now jailed Congress member Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Foggo is the Executive Director of the Agency and is under internal review. He also may be indicted by the F.B.I. for his role in the Cunningham scandal. After Goss’s announcement, Foggo told his colleagues he would resign next week.

This morning, President Bush nominated General Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss. Hayden is the Deputy Director of National Intelligence and the former director of the National Security Agency. It’s expected Hayden would face a contentious confirmation process over the administration’s domestic spying program, which is run by the NSA. This is General Hayden speaking at a rare news conference in January, defending the spy program. He was questioned by Knight Ridder reporter, Jonathan Landay.

JONATHAN LANDAY: My understanding is that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American’s right against unlawful searches and seizures.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: No, actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That’s what it says.

JONATHAN LANDAY: But the measure is "probable cause," I believe.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says "unreasonable search and seizure."

JONATHAN LANDAY: But does it not say "probable — "

MICHAEL HAYDEN: No.

JONATHAN LANDAY: The court standard, the legal standard —

MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says, "unreasonable search and seizure."

JONATHAN LANDAY: The legal standard is "probable cause," General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "we reasonably believe," and a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say, "We reasonably believe." You have to go to the FISA Court or the Attorney General has to go to the FISA Court and say, "We have probable cause," and so what many people believe, and I would like you to respond to this, is that what you’ve actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA Court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of "probable cause," because the FISA Court will not give you a warrant based on "reasonable belief." You have to show "probable cause." Could you respond to that, please?

MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure. I didn’t craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order, alright? The Attorney General has averred to the lawfulness of the order. Just to be very clear, okay, and believe me, if there is any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it’s the Fourth, and it is a "reasonableness" standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so, what you’ve raised to me, and I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to become one, but what you’ve raised to me, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable," and we believe — I am convinced that we’re lawful, because what it is we’re doing is reasonable.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Hayden speaking in January. For the record, the Fourth Amendment says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."

To talk more about this issue of the Goss resignation and General Hayden’s appointment to head the civilian agency, the C.I.A., we’re joined by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek magazine, on the phone from D.C. Also on the phone with us, former C.I.A. agent, Larry Johnson. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Larry Johnson, let’s begin with you. Your response to the appointment of General Hayden and the resignation of Porter Goss?

LARRY JOHNSON: I think the appointment of General Hayden is problematic. He should be required to resign his commission as an officer if he is allowed to take that position as the head of the C.I.A. Otherwise, we are faced with a situation in which more than 80% of the intelligence community, as measured by budget, will be under the control of the Department of Defense, because General Hayden, by virtue of being an active duty military officer, still falls under the direct chain of command of Donald Rumsfeld, and given Rumsfeld’s bunglings in Iraq, I don’t think he’s actually earned the right to make a mess of the entire intelligence community.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did Porter Goss resign?

LARRY JOHNSON: My understanding is — and it’s from someone who did attend some of the poker parties — is that Goss was not implicated in any bribery, any of the prostitution. One of Goss’s staff members is, and apparently that issue surfaced to either a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Assessment Board, the PFIAB, or someone at the White House. The White House strategy was to call Porter in, talk to him about arranging, I guess, an orchestrated exit, and when confronted with that, Porter just said, "I’m not going to stay around for that." He just up and resigned, and that’s what caught them completely unprepared. But there has been tensions with Negroponte, but heavens, you get — there’s always interagency conflict in Washington. At the end of the day, both Goss and Negroponte were at odds with Rumsfeld, because Rumsfeld was pushing to make D.O.D., if you will, independent and able to conduct independent operations overseas.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Johnson is a former C.I.A. agent and former FOX News contributor. We’re also joined by Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for Newsweek. Your assessment, Michael Isikoff, of Goss leaving, General Hayden being named to head the civilian agency and what’s going on at the C.I.A. right now?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, first of all, it’s a bit surprising about how much opposition there has been, particularly from Republicans, to General Hayden. The White House made it clear he is going to be nominated today, and to have the likes of Peter Hoekstra, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Senator Specter, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raising questions about General Hayden right from the get go is a sign, first of all, of the serious questions that a lot of people have about the way the intelligence community is being run. And secondly, I think it’s probably a sign of the President’s political weakness. I don’t think you would have seen this a year or two years ago, to have senior Republicans challenging the President’s nominee or at least raising questions about the President’s nominee on such an important post.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to that Hoekstra clip. He was speaking on FOX. This is the man, the Congressmember, Pete Hoekstra, who will not be voting on Hayden, but is very significant, because he’s head of the House Intelligence Committee.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA: I’ve got a lot of respect for Mike Hayden. I think he’s done a very good job in the positions that he’s had. He’s got a distinguished career. Bottom line, I do believe he’s the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time. We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Michael Isikoff, this is going to highlight the NSA domestic spying program, the government’s spying on Americans, when Hayden is brought up. Can you talk about the significance of that and if you think it will go further?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, it’s hard to see how that one cuts. Certainly, critics, and I think all members of the Senate, are going to raise questions and really tough questions for General Hayden about this. The White House has disclosed very little about the nature of the program, and that’s been one of the frustrations in talking about it, because people have been having this sort of abstract debate about the law and the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, without having very many details of how this program actually works, so it makes it hard to assess the competing claims about it.

Certainly, it’s going to be front and center in General Hayden’s confirmation hearings, but I would be doubtful that we’re going to learn a lot more. They have kept this on such a close hold and only briefed such limited members of the — very few members of the intelligence committees and then provided very little information all under closed doors. I just don’t think we’re going to learn a lot. We’ll hear assertions about it, and I think that the White House figures that as long as the broad outline is — as long as the debate is kept under broad outlines and this is described as a program aimed at al-Qaeda suspects, they can prevail on it.

AMY GOODMAN: I guess that also has a lot to do with the press, whether they adopt the administration’s language of "terrorist surveillance program" or talk about "spying on Americans," but Larry Johnson, I wanted to as you, what more do you do know about these prostitute poker parties?

LARRY JOHNSON: The real — the way that Dusty Foggo, the number three guy at the C.I.A., got his job was through this staff member of Goss. Goss had no ties with Foggo. It was a staff member of Goss, and I’ve been told that the Goss staff member, in fact, probably was an active participant in the prostitution parties, but there are members of Congress, and some fairly prominent names on the Republican side, so that’s going to be trickling out. You know, this is a story that is not going to go away, and it’s going to — just as you think the Republicans had enough black eyes, they’re going to get two or three more in the process.

What’s unfortunate about this is that, you know, when Goss leaves, he leaves with a mixed legacy. On the one hand, he really did make some positive strides forward in trying to reenergize human collection overseas. He reopened several C.I.A. posts that George Tenet had closed. On the other hand, he allowed the place to become more politicized. People’s loyalties were being questioned, because they support a Democrat. You know, in the past, regardless of your political affiliation, you were considered a professional, and that stuff was left outside. Instead Goss’s staff members, the "Goss-lings," as they’re called derisively at C.I.A., they went on a bit of a campaign to root out people that they saw as not being politically loyal to George Bush, and that has damaged the agency enormously, and that led to several prominent people leaving, because they weren’t going to put up with that.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Isikoff, final 30 seconds, what more do you know about these poker parties at places like the Watergate that perhaps Porter Goss was at?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, we don’t have any evidence that Porter Goss was at the parties, but we do know this is definitely a subject of investigation. Mr. Foggo is definitely one of those under investigation, and this is going to reach far and wide, because you have other lawmakers and other congressional aides who may well be under scrutiny as part of this, and so I think there could be embarrassments all around, both on Capitol Hill and within the C.I.A. over this.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent with Newsweek. Larry Johnson, former C.I.A. agent.

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