WASHINGTON—With the public and politicians on both sides of the aisle growing increasingly alarmed at the Bush administration's domestic surveillance and data-mining program, the Senate confirmation hearing of the man who ran those activities for the National Security Agency attracted an overflow crowd Thursday.
It was largely a crowd of insiders. A middle-aged woman sat with a friend in the audience, fanning herself with a piece of cardboard that said: "Defeat the war on terror. Create friends, not war." They politely applauded a few of the Democrats' questions.
When Gen. Michael V. Hayden appeared, his arrival was announced by dozens of high-speed clicks and a horseshoe of photographers followed him as he shook the hand of each senator, then took his seat.
"The herd will now go back to their pen," ordered intelligence committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a Dodge City colloquialism, he explained.
Hayden, 61, faced the floodlights and senators' questions flanked by his wife, Jeanine, their daughter, his brother and a nephew. All day long he sat, shoulders back, in his crisp, dark blue Air Force uniform, which bears four stars on each shoulder.
In a patient, measured voice, Hayden sprinkled generous sports metaphors with a dizzying alphabet soup of military and intelligence shorthand. The CIA has become a political football, he said. He talked about inviting more players on the field, how intelligence professionals should be judged by their team record, not by individual stats.
The Pittsburgh native and welder's son remains a huge Steelers fan, one senator mentioned.
If the job of CIA director requires the ability to answer hours of sharp questions and not actually say much, Hayden passed a critical test.
As the morning session wound down, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wanted some answers from the career military intelligence man nominated by President Bush to replace Porter Goss.
What did Hayden think about "water boarding," the dunking of terror suspects to speed their cooperation?
He replied that he'd be happy to talk about that—in a closed session.
Does he agree that detainees might be kept for decades without trial?
Again, he said, only in closed session.
"He didn't answer any of them," Feinstein huffed.
(Dan Rubin reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer.)
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): CIA-HAYDEN
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