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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 8, 2006

Press Briefing by Ambassador John Negroponte on the Nomination of General Hayden for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
James S. Brady Briefing Room

11:05 A.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: As you know, President Bush, earlier today, nominated General Michael Hayden to become the next Director of Central Intelligence (Agency). A lot of you have questions about the circumstances surrounding that, so I thought we would invite Ambassador John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, to answer your questions. He has an opening statement, and then will take questions.


AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Good morning. Thank you very much. I'd like to make a few points to place General Hayden's nomination as Director of the CIA in context before taking your questions. In nominating Mike Hayden to serve as the Director of Central Intelligence (Agency), I believe that the President has selected the best person, civilian or military, to lead the CIA during this critical period.

If confirmed, Mike Hayden's three decades of experience in intelligence, national security affairs, and the management of large organizations will strengthen the CIA, improve the morale of its career professionals, and capitalize on its proud traditions. If confirmed, Mike Hayden will be building upon the work of many distinguished predecessors, including Porter Goss, who, during the span of his public service as a CIA case officer, a congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and the Director of the CIA, has made innumerable contributions to the security of our country and our interests abroad.

During Porter's tenure, the senior al Qaeda leadership, those most responsible for the 9/11 attacks, has been significantly degraded. In addition, he has worked hard with other members of the intelligence community to launch initiatives that have better integrated intelligence in the war on terrorism.

Mike Hayden brings with him 30 years of experience in intelligence, both at home and abroad, and is widely acknowledged for his command of all aspects of the discipline. His expertise is by no means limited to technical aspects of intelligence. He has been at the forefront of integrating all aspects of intelligence -- technical collection, human intelligence operations, and analysis. Over the past year, he was instrumental in the creation of the National Clandestine Service, which he will lead as CIA Director, the creation of the FBI's National Security Branch, and countless other initiatives.

Equally important, having been Director of the National Security Agency for six years, he knows how to manage and transform large organizations. As the Director of the NSA, he won the respect and admiration of those whom he led, as well as congressional leaders. I am confident that he will bring the same visionary leadership and management ability to the CIA.

Mike is also a reformer who understands the imperative that we create a truly integrated intelligence community. Over the past year he has dedicated himself to implementing the vision of the Intelligence Reform Act, and I know that he will do the same at the CIA, and that he will, as a consequence, improve intelligence for all intelligence customers, whether they are policymakers, the Congress, military leaders, diplomats, or law enforcement officials.

These traits make Mike Hayden the right man to ensure that the CIA remains as its name suggests, central to our intelligence community, and that it strengthens its two core capabilities -- human intelligence operations and all source analysis.

In this regard, the CIA must remain the intelligence community's premier human intelligence agency. As the Director of the CIA, Mike Hayden will be responsible for coordinating all of our national clandestine human operations, something with which, as I have already noted, he has been closely involved over the past year. Mike will help grow the CIA's human intelligence capabilities, ensure that those capabilities are well-integrated with other intelligence operations, and provide crucial leadership for all of the intelligence community's human operations.

With respect to analysis, the CIA will remain the intelligence community's center of excellence. The agency's breadth and depth of analytic expertise is unparalleled. The CIA is the nation's most important repository for intelligence analysis on virtually every imaginable topic, including our highest priority areas, such as Iran, North Korea, and weapons of mass destruction. Mike Hayden knows these issues from every angle, and his experience working with all intelligence customers from the President on down makes him the ideal leader for the CIA.

Finally, let me say that I have learned a tremendous amount from Mike over the past year, and I will be sorry to lose him as my deputy, by I know that he is the right man for this challenging assignment. He is a reform-minded leader who listens well, makes tough decisions, and understands the challenges of the 21st century. He has committed his life to serving our country and making sure that the nation's leaders have the intelligence that they need to keep America safe. I simply cannot imagine anyone better to lead the CIA today and into the future.

Thank you. I'd be pleased to take your questions.

Q Mr. Ambassador, were you surprised by the level of concern that was expressed over the weekend about the fact that it will be a military man leading a civilian spy agency?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I think the most important thing is the qualifications of the individual who is going to be filling that job, and I think that Mike has both they're breadth and depth of qualifications required for the position.

Secondly, he's occupied a great variety of positions, including in civilian organizations such as the National Security Council, and the present job he occupies as my deputy is also a civilian-type position. So to those who raise a question about the fact that Mike Hayden is -- wears the uniform, and proudly so, of the United States Air Force, I would respond, they should look at the qualifications and I think they can also be assured that Mike Hayden is a very, very independent-minded person, blunt-spoken, and who I don't think will have any difficulty whatsoever staking out positions that are independent and responsive to the needs of our civilian intelligence community.

Q Any thought that he might retire from the military --

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, that suggestion has been made, but my understanding is that is not his intention at this particular time.

Q One of the perceptions and I think some of the concerns from the Hill is because he wears a uniform and it is a time when it is perceived that the Pentagon and Don Rumsfeld is trying to take on more of the intelligence roles -- that's what makes people on the Hill uncomfortable. Can you talk about the role of Mr. Rumsfeld and taking on more of the intelligence role, and because of that, having someone in uniform?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Sure. First of all, just one other point on Mike's independence. You may recall, and some of the senators that I've been calling in the run-up to this announcement recollected, that during the debate on intelligence reform, Mike was one of those who, for example, recommended that the NSA come under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was not the conventional view within the Pentagon, for example. So I just want to emphasize that he's really capable of staking out independent positions.

As far as this concern that's been expressed about the military or the Pentagon taking over intelligence, I think there's a lot of unfounded concerns there. The Director of National Intelligence is responsible for formulating the national intelligence budget. We're responsible for laying out the priorities for intelligence collections and analysis, and we're also responsible for a lot of the tasking related to the collection of national intelligence.

So I don't think this concern is well-founded. Obviously, we have to work together with the military. The watch word for intelligence reform, after all, is integration, and that means integration of all of the elements of our government that work on intelligence. And we're also in a war. So it really stands to reason that we do have to work very closely with the Pentagon and with the Armed Services in our intelligence activities, and we do precisely that.

Q Mr. Ambassador, could you comment a little bit on the assertion that's been made that there is a rift, and that the Defense Department and the CIA have been at odds over this integration? And how will Mr. Hayden at CIA, General Hayden at CIA, enhance that integration, and, if you would comment on break the logjam?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, from where I sit or stand, I don't really see that rift. And I think sometimes people take maybe one fragment of a particular debate that they may have heard about and try to blow that up into some kind of a full-blown confrontation between organizations. But I can assure you that there isn't that kind of rift.

And specifically with respect to the Pentagon and the CIA, in my own experience as Ambassador to Iraq, for example, and following the current situations both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in areas where the CIA's interest and the Pentagon's interest would intersect, I see nothing but excellent cooperation. And back here at headquarters, there is a memorandum of understanding that has been reached and signed during my tenure as the Director of National Intelligence that lays out the terms of reference for cooperation between the two organizations. So I would say, and I can assure you that they're pretty tightly knit together in what the way they operate.

Q Mr. Ambassador, can I ask you about the other strain of criticism coming off the Hill that General Hayden's expertise is primarily in technical intelligence-gathering and that he has not spent, obviously, any time in the field as an operative, and you have a guy running the CIA who is not as familiar with that at a time when it most needs it?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, here's the answer to that one: First of all, Mike is not personally a techy. As you know, or may know from looking at his resume, he has a -- he's an historian; he has a master's degree, both a bachelor's and master's in history. Secondly, he has served in other than technical aspects federal intelligence. He was an attache in Bulgaria during the Cold War, so he was actually an intelligence collector out there as a defense attache. He's been an instructor at a civilian institution, ROTC institution for a four-year period. So I think that he's got great breadth of experience with respect to the different intelligence disciplines that exist out there.

The second point I'd like to make is that as regards Mike's deputy, although it's not yet the time to be processing that appointment because we have to await the confirmation process for General Hayden, himself, but we are seriously looking at Mr. Steve Kappes as the -- he's the leading contender to be General Hayden's deputy. And as you may know, he is currently retired from the CIA, but was one of their leading case officers and a leading member of their clandestine service. So I think his skill sets, together with General Hayden's background, will form a very nice balance, if you will, of the leadership team at the CIA.

Q Can I ask you what his selection says about what the President believes must be changed at the CIA? And speak, if you would, about the President's level of confidence, indeed, your level of confidence in our intelligence right now, particularly in crisis areas like Iran.

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, I think what it says about what the President wants is I think he -- first of all, I'm sure his most important priority is intelligence on al Qaeda and international terrorism, so I think he wants us to press ahead in the field of tracking down and disabling and harming the international terrorist movement. I think that's the number one priority.

I think the second is to continue to move forward in strengthening the human intelligence and analytical intelligence capabilities of the CIA. So I think those are probably the two highest priorities on the list.

As far as the confidence in our intelligence is concerned, whether it's with respect to international terrorism or some of the hot spots around the world -- Iran, North Korea -- we think it's good, it's improving. We think there are some very important accomplishments that have been achieved under Director Goss's leadership in terms of strengthening our human intelligence capabilities. But you know these targets are hard, and therefore, by definition, difficult to penetrate, and that will continue to need redoubled effort on our part.

Q Can I just follow on one point. What do you make of this letter from the Iranian regime, this kind of conciliatory gesture? Is it that? What do you make of it?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: I'm afraid I just haven't had an opportunity to study it this morning.

Q Why did you want Mr. Goss fired? And also, does the CIA send detainees to secret prisons, prisons abroad?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: I wouldn't characterize Mr. Goss's departure in that way, Helen. Porter had talked for some time about the possibility of leaving public service. I think that the President felt this was an opportune time. He saw Porter, and I think Porter also had talked about himself being a transitional leader, transitioning from the old setup prior to intelligence reform to the new one. And the President just felt that this was a good time to appoint new leadership to carry the agenda forward and consolidate the reforms that Mr. Goss had initiated.

Q How about the second part of my question? Do we send detainees to secret prisons abroad?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: I'm just not going to comment on that question.

Q Mr. Ambassador, who do you recommend --

Q Mr. Ambassador, I realize you haven't had a chance to peruse the letter yet from the Iranian leader, but what is your sense of the timing that this disclosure, this announcement from his government came over the weekend at a time of critical importance at the U.N. in New York? And is it -- will you give General Hayden the opportunity to brief the President, President Bush, for his daily intelligence briefings?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, first, on the question of timing -- and again, bearing in mind that I haven't read the letter -- but certainly, given the fact that the issue of Iran is before the United Nations at this time, certainly one of the hypotheses you'd have to examine is whether, and in what way the timing of the dispatch of that letter is connected with trying in some manner to influence the debate before the Security Council. But, again, having not read the letter, I don't think I could comment further on that.

As far as the question of briefing the President is concerned, the President is briefed daily by a CIA briefer in my presence, and the practice in the past year or so has been for Porter to join us once a week to give the President kind of an operational update. We'll have to -- I'll have to discuss with the President how he would wish that arrangement -- how he would wish to see things arranged going forward.

Q Mr. Ambassador, going forward, you're going to, on the Hill, get questions even from Republicans like Arlen Specter on the domestic spying program, or, I should say, General Hayden will. How do you guys plan to prepare to move forward on that?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I wouldn't call it domestic spying. I mean, this is about international terrorism, and telephone calls between people thought to be working for international terrorism and people here in the United States. So that would be my first point.

As far as answering questions about that, of course, you know that General Hayden is familiar with that program. He was involved in its creation when he was Director of the NSA. He's already been both before the public and the Congress in explaining and defending the program as being in the interest of the United States, as it most definitely is. So I think we -- it would be fair to say that we expect quite a bit of questioning about this issue, but I believe that General Hayden will be very, very well-equipped and very well-prepared to answer any questions that might arise.

Q Mr. Ambassador, what kind of change -- the selection of General Hayden, who has been your deputy and in sync with you on what you want -- what does it mean, in terms of, how is the CIA going to change? Are there going to be large numbers of analysts taken away from the Central Intelligence Agency and put in other agencies? How much upheaval do you now expect in the Central Intelligence Agency? And who's going to be your new deputy?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: On the question of change and upheaval, I think if you look at what I said in my statement, the intent was to convey a message of reassurance that, going forward, we want to build on the existing strengths of the CIA, and particularly, I want to emphasize that we want to stay on the President's course of increasing their human intelligence and their analytic capabilities by 50 percent. There's no thought of taking the analytic function out of the CIA, as I've heard some of the stories suggest. And as I said in my remarks, we still view the agency as the premier all-source analytic agency within the United States government. If I might add, as Mr. Goss said to the work force last Friday, the CIA sets the gold standard for these kinds of issues, to which we hope to bring the rest of the community.

Q There is a possibility that the Senate Judiciary Committee might call General Hayden before it to testify about the warrantless wiretaps. Would he be able to do that, number one? And number two, could you lay to rest for us the question of whether we are conducting warrantless wiretaps on purely domestic calls?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, on the second question, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely not. On the first question, I believe that this is a question of whom he ought to appear before in the process of confirmation, and my understanding is that the Senate Intelligence Committee would have the lead responsibility on that.

And I forgot, David, to answer you question about my deputy. We just haven't broached that issue yet. So I haven't -- haven't picked anybody, and I'm just holding back for the moment on that one.

Thank you, thank you very much.

Q Can we just ask you about morale at the CIA? Sir, morale at the CIA? You said it needs improving. Why does it need improving? What happened?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: No, what I said was that I believe that Mike's appointment, and I think together with -- if Steve -- the appointment of Steve Kappes goes through, I think that's going to be a boost for the morale out there and I think they're going to -- and I think they're going to welcome this new leadership.

Thank you.

END 11:27 A.M. EDT