General Hayden, former wiretapper in chief and now Bush's nominee to head the CIA, is used to giving orders and not used to such unmilitary institutions as a free press. In his confirmation hearings yesterday he said CIA officers "deserve not to have every action analyzed, second-guessed and criticized on the front pages of the morning paper." Press criticism is to be condemned, but Hayden would like to have a rapport with the American people; he wants the public's trust. And he wants Congress to sell the public on the agency's activities:
…I would redouble our efforts to act consistent with both the law and a broader sense of American ideals. And while the bulk of the agency's work must, in order to be effective, remain secret, fighting this long war on the terrorists who seek to do us harm requires [emphasis added] that the American people and you, their elected representatives, know that the CIA is protecting them effectively and in a way consistent with the core values of our nation.
I did that at NSA and if confirmed will do that at the Central Intelligence Agency.
In that regard, I view it to be particularly important that the director of CIA have an open and honest relationship with congressional committees such as yours so that the American people will know that their elected representatives are conducting oversight effectively.
I would also look to the members of the committee who have been briefed and who have acknowledged the appropriateness of activities to say so when selected links, accusations and inaccuracies distort the public's picture of legitimate intelligence activities.
Color me skeptical. We haven't seen much sign of "effective" Congressional oversight of Hayden's earlier wiretapping activities or of the various questionable methods employed by the CIA lately. Hayden assured the Senate intelligence committee yesterday that the CIA is bound by federal anti-torture statute and the Detainee Treatment Act, but when asked specifically about "waterboarding," he became evasive:
FEINSTEIN: On March 17th, 2005, Director Porter Goss stated to the Senate Armed Service Committee that waterboarding fell into, quote, "an area of what I will call professional interrogation techniques," end quote.
Do you agree with that assessment? Do you agree with Mr. Goss's statement that waterboarding may be acceptable?
If not, what steps have been taken or do you plan to take to correct the impression that may have been left with agency employees by Mr. Goss' remarks?
HAYDEN: Yes, ma'am. Again, let me defer that to closed session, and I would be happy to discuss it in some detail.
Obviously, Hayden would not be deferring this question to closed session if his answer were simply that waterboarding is unacceptable and that he intends to make that clear to CIA operatives.
Hayden's record and statements on data mining, torture, and the role of the press and of Congress don't exactly inspire confidence in his assurances that as director he will respect the law and Americans' privacy. If the Senate confirms him, it will be a measure of just what Congressional oversight amounts to under Republican control.