01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hayden CIA Chief Rumors Cause More Concern

with John Brennan out of the picture, a more controversial contender for CIA chief has emerged:

As President-elect Barack Obama continues to build his national security staff, now focused on intelligence, it is possible that he might ask CIA Director Mike Hayden to stay on for a while, intelligence sources say. Much of the speculation about the CIA job has been that Obama wants a change, in part because he disagreed with the CIA's detention policies. But officials are pushing back a little on that issue, suggesting that Hayden has been carrying out the policies backed by Congress and the president before he arrived at Langley, not freelancing on his own. "It's unfair to blame Hayden for things that occurred long before he took the job. But he deserves credit for standing up for the folks over there at CIA, even though a lot of the stuff he has dealt with didn't happen on his watch," said an intelligence official. "Administration policy and American law shape what the CIA does. If the president says he doesn't want something done, that's it. These are his programs," added the official.

Glenn Greenwald writes that keeping Hayden would be a direct contradiction of Obama's past positions.

A report from U.S. News & World Report today suggests that Obama is considering having Gen. Michael Hayden -- Bush's former NSA Director -- remain on as CIA Director. I have no idea whether that report is true, but here is what I do know:

In May, 2006, Barack Obama voted against confirming Gen. Hayden as CIA Director. Obama was one of only 15 Senators to oppose Hayden. In his speech on the Senate floor explaining his vote, Obama emphasized Hayden's role as Bush's NSA Director in implementing and overseeing Bush's illegal warrantless surveillance programs -- programs Obama has repeatedly decried as an assault on the rule of law. ...

If, less than 3 years later, Obama chooses as his CIA Director the very same Michael Hayden -- who, during his confirmation hearing, justified Bush's illegal NSA spying and said how proud he was to help implement it [to say nothing of his (at best) equivocations on torture] -- then it should be quite . . . let us, for the moment, say "interesting" . . . to watch him and his most loyal supporters explain and justify that.

Digby wonders if the indignant CIA reaction to Brennan's withdrawal was just paving the way for Hayden:

The politics of this are getting really interesting. Last week there was a lot of fretting about the left being hostile to the CIA and holding it to a ridiculous standard by insisting that members of the torture regime not be elevated or retained in high level jobs in the new administration. I mentioned a couple of times that I thought it was a bit of a stretch to believe that the Obama transition team was so cowed by some blog posts that they asked Brennan to remove his name. Certainly, these unnamed, unhappy CIA sources seemed awfully gullible if they believed that liberal bloggers had such power.


[This leak to Washington Whispers makes me think there might be some method to the madness if the real point was to inoculate Hayden (or a similar company man.) After all this complaining over Brennan, Obama can't be seen to have "succumbed" to another blogger witchhunt at this point or risk have the village roar that he's being held hostage by the left on national security.


It's just a theory, of course, and this floating of Hayden could just be wishful thinking. But if the CIA is seeking to pressure the new administration to hire one of their own, this would be a clever way to frame it: if Obama doesn't pick one of theirs, he will be portrayed as captive to the Left on national security. And naturally, the press runs with it because it fits their favorite storyline as well.