Jamie Misick, former Deputy Director for Intelligence Former Illinois Congressman Tim Roemer California Congresswoman Jane Harmon Former CIA deputy director of Operations Jack Devine Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel
Those are just some of the names that have been discussed as possible nominees to succeed Michael Hayden as the next director of the CIA.
John Brennan, who was the former director of the National Counter-terrorism Center was on the brink of being named when, as sources say, another former CIA officer led a charge to derail Brennan’s nomination.
As a result, the Obama administration has had to re-think its options. In the process, a curious name has come up as a potential choice to take over from Hayden.
That name is Mike Hayden – the same Mike Hayden running the agency now.
The topic is quietly circulating through the intelligence community.
A Senior Intelligence official says, “Mike isn’t concerned about it (prospective personnel changes). He is concentrating on the job. If he were asked to remain at CIA for a period of time, that’s something he would consider. He likes the people, he finds the work challenging and fulfilling, and he has helped bring about stability over there. Those are the factors he would think about, if asked.”
A another former top CIA official says however, “Hayden has the same problem Brennan. Brennan removed his name from consideration because of concerns that his nomination would be a distraction, due to his connection with CIA interrogation techniques.” But he adds, “choosing Hayden would remove any question about the politicization of the position.”
Hayden’s critics say the Agency’s detention programs for men identified as “enemy combatants” is a another negative in his column, but another intelligence official defends him saying, “the program has certainly changed over time. Waterboarding, which was used on three hardened terrorists, hasn’t been used since 2003. That is more than three years before Mike Hayden became the Director of CIA.”
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is in line to become chair of the Senate intelligence committee wants a clean sweep.
A different message is coming from the House.
The House Intelligence Committee’s Democratic chairman Silvestre Reyes, told Congress Daily, Obama should retain should retain both Hayden and Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell for at least six months. “There’s got to be some continuity, and the leadership of both the CIA and the DNI is going to be pivotal to keeping us safe and secure,” Reyes said.
What does Hayden think? CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield says, “as Director Hayden has said, with every transition comes all sorts of speculation about personnel changes across government. He has tried to ignore it. Director Hayden understands that he serves at the pleasure of the President, and he is focused on running the CIA.”
Regardless of who gets the job, most agree, President-elect Obama will have to pay close attention to one area in particular.
It’s called “ground truth” says Gary Berntsen, a former CIA Senior field commander. He’s been in more than a few tight spots as a CIA officer in Latin America, Africa and Afghanistan.
He says it’s indispensible.
“Presidents need to recognize that if they’re going to make a decision and it’s a crisis, call your ambassador! Call your ambassador and the (CIA) chief of station should be standing next to him!”
Berntsen says, “you have a lot of staff people here in Washington, that don’t want the President to do anything other than their position. They don’t want to the President to have contact with that official closest to the ground, because they’re not sure what that person’s going to say.”
Berntsen says that’s something leadership of the CIA could be instrumental in fixing, if so inclined.