The teeth-gnashing about yesterday's nomination of General Hayden to replace Mr. Goss is mostly misplaced. When it comes to the CIA, there is much to worry about, but the four stars on the nominee's shoulders are pretty low on the list. General Hayden has been out of the Pentagon since 1999, first running the National Security Agency and lately as Deputy Director of National Intelligence, meaning essentially at the White House. The idea that he'd be Don Rumsfeld's robot at this remove is preposterous. Next up from the bottom has to be General Hayden's creation and running of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of suspected terrorists. For this he deserves not criticism but a national medal. It removes any doubt he recognizes the reality of the current threat. Arlen Specter's preening notwithstanding, Republicans should welcome the chance to let Senate Democrats prove themselves soft on terror in front of the nation.WSJ points out that if Hayden -- who is currently John Negroponte's top assistant at the Directorate of National Intelligence -- is appointed to the top CIA post, the intelligence-gathering system would resemble the organizational structure of the intelligence bureaucracy before the round of 2004 reforms. If so, what was the purpose of the restructuring in the first place? Perhaps Bush's move might be the initial attempt to realign the clandestine services toward (re)building its human intelligence assets, and thus restoring the fundamental and vital espionage mission that was supposed to serve as the core of the agency's work through much of the post-WWII period. WSJ notes that one recent success within the clandestine services was the agency's deal that led to Libya's dismanting of its nuclear program.
The CIA's apparently deep structural problems date from well before Porter Goss took over the top job less than 18 months ago. WSJ notes that the the agency is now at a historical turning point, and it "remains to be seen whether the members of the Senate or the permanent CIA establishment are able to recognize that, or whether the Hayden nomination will strike them as another chance to revisit the political score-settling that has put U.S. intelligence-gathering dangerously behind the curve of history."