Peoria Journal Star

May 9, 2006

Peoria's LaHood backs Hayden - Illinois senators concerned
about CIA nominee's military, NSA background 

By By Dori Meinert and Mike Ramsey 
Copley News Service 


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Illinois' two Democratic senators Monday said they had concerns about President Bush's nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to be CIA director.

But Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he supports Hayden's nomination.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called Hayden's nomination "troubling."

"Good soldiers are trained to follow their orders, and General Hayden is a good soldier," Durbin said. "But the CIA director is often called on to follow the evidence and to challenge the assumptions of their superiors. I am concerned that General Hayden may not be able to provide the president with the independent voice he needs at the CIA."

He said Hayden's military background also is a concern, considering past jurisdictional rivalries between the Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

"I think the hard questions need to be asked and answered," Durbin said. "From where I'm sitting, I think the president should have chosen a different person."

At a press conference in Chicago, both Durbin and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Hayden's prior oversight of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program will be a major issue in Hayden's coming Senate confirmation hearings.

Obama said the selection comes at a time when there has been a "deterioration of the CIA."

"Why is it that we can't seem to get our act together?" Obama asked. "Why is that we are pressing the envelope on the Constitution when we're not even doing the things that are constitutionally permissible well? Those are the kinds of questions that I think that General Hayden is going to have to answer."

However, LaHood said he supports Hayden and the president's right to choose him.

"I respect him very much and believe he knows a deal about collecting and gathering intelligence ...." LaHood wrote in an e-mail.

LaHood won't have a vote on the nomination, which must be approved by the Senate.

LaHood said he strongly disagreed with committee chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., who called Hayden "the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time."

"I believe the president has the right to select the person he feels can do the very best job," wrote LaHood, who unsuccessfully sought the chairman's seat in 2004. "Obviously, President Bush has great faith and trust in Hayden's ability."

Mike Ramsey reported from Chicago. He can be reached at (312) 857-2323
or cnsramsey(at)aol.com. Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686
or dori.meinert(at)copleydc.com.