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General Michael V. Hayden to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I opposed the nomination of GEN Michael Hayden to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

General Hayden has many qualifications as an intelligence professional, but I am sad to say that he is the wrong person for the job.

Over the last years, the abuse of the CIA by the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the Cheney White House has hurt our national security and our credibility around the world, as the CIA was bullied into becoming a client of administration ideologues, yielding unfounded claims of ``slam dunk'' evidence for mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

I am not confident that General Hayden is the person best equipped to restore the CIA's independence and credibility, not just because he comes from Secretary Rumsfeld's Pentagon but because he was the Administration's principal spokesperson and defender of an illegal domestic spying program.

We are reminded again and again of the administration's determination to keep the extent of their illegal domestic spying program secret. All we have to do is look at the news that the Department of Justice abruptly ended an investigation into the conduct of Department lawyers who approved the program--not because the approving lawyers were cleared of wrongdoing but because investigators were denied the information to conduct the investigation.

The question before us is not whether we are committed to destroying terrorists and preventing terrorist attacks before they happen. We all are. In fact, we can wage and win a far more effective war on terror. No, the question is whether we can restore checks and balances between the executive and legislative branch and what can be done to restore accountability for an administration that too often appears run by people who hold themselves above the law. How many times will Government secrecy shield decisionmakers from any kind of accountability?

The fact that General Hayden was the key architect and, more recently, the principal defender of a program that listened to phone calls of Americans without a warrant, a program the administration refuses to come clean about, resides at ground zero of this debate.

The goal of General Hayden's program was appropriate: to find al-Qaida operatives who would do us harm. But the administration, instead of relying on the consent of the people through the American Congress and the court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, chose, unnecessarily, to assert the President's unfettered authority as a war-time commander to execute this program.

We must use every tool at our disposal to protect America. But the administration has no reason to assert unchecked Executive power when Congress is more than willing

to work to create the mechanisms to keep America safe while we still preserve our essential liberties.

America has been the strongest, safest, most secure Nation on the planet for more than 200 years without ever having to choose between security and freedom. We can have both. But it requires an executive branch that respects the co-equal branches of Government. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Nation was united behind the President. Congress was--and is--prepared to do anything necessary to win the war on terror and ready to work with the President. If President Bush believed the domestic eavesdropping laws were insufficient, then all he had to do was ask Congress to improve them immediately. But the President didn't do that. Instead, he decided he was above the law.

General Hayden was the architect of that plan, and to this day he clings to an unnecessarily expansive interpretation of Executive power. That is not what America needs in the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

We take our civil rights very seriously--and we should. It is our heritage and our birthright--one generation's gift to the next, earned in the blood of Americans since our revolution.

The mistrust, the anger, the lack of confidence so many Americans feel about this program is a reflection of our love of liberty. Regrettably, it is also the result of the way this administration has conducted itself: asserting its right to act by executive branch dictate because we are a nation at war. In one moment, the President of the United States says we are not listening to domestic calls without a warrant; in another, the Attorney General says he can't rule it out.

We are a nation at war with global jihaadists, a war that, as the Department of Defense calls it, will be a ``long war.'' Ad hoc and secret solutions to issues that demand a reasoned balance between security and the freedom of law abiding Americans cannot simply be handed over to the executive branch--of any party.

This Congress has much work to do before we can say we have effectively insisted on that balance and done our duty. Before we do, it would be a mistake to support General Hayden's nomination.


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