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Hayden May Replace Goss at CIA

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The abrupt resignation of Porter Goss as head of the Central Intelligence Agency was a surprise yesterday. Mr. Goss had led the CIA for just under 20 months. He gave no reason for his departure. No successor has been named, but administration officials say that Air Force General Michael V. Hayden has emerged as the likely choice. General Hayden is currently Deputy to the Director of National Intelligence. Joined now by NPR intelligence correspondent Mary Louise Kelly. Mary Louise, thanks for being with us.

MARY LOUISE KELLY reporting:

Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Did Director Goss jump? Was he pushed, or did he jump?

KELLY: What I hear is that he was pushed. Goss was unpopular to the point that it may have become clear he could no longer run the CIA. Under his tenure you saw dozens of very experienced CIA officers walking out, resigning early. And Goss' supporters said this is a much-needed shakeup, we need to see this change. But I think the hope was that there would be a shakeup and then that there would be a period of rebuilding, of strengthening the agency, and that rebuilding period never seems to have arrived. Instead, the resignations have continued. I was speaking with several people who have just recently left the agency who tell me morale is worse than ever, and in their view the CIA is probably weaker today than when Goss arrived back in 2004.

SIMON: And at the same time help us understand, because there was the perception obviously that sometimes the CIA, or mid-level officers in the CIA, were at odds with the Administration or the Defense Department. Did this make for a particularly unharmonious working group?

KELLY: I think, you know, certainly the President and his advisers had made clear they wanted to see change at the CIA, that they did feel that there was an unhealthy political atmosphere that had taken root there, and they thought it was a dysfunctional agency and it needed fixing. But I think the sense that has emerged over the past year or so is that that change was handled very badly. I'm told for example that the PFIAB, this is the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, it serves as a kind of think tank to him on intelligence issues, they have invited in a parade of CIA veterans in the last few weeks and the unanimous report from these CIA officers was, the agency is a God-awful mess and you need to do something about it. So I think that advice would have been getting reported up to the President, and the announcement yesterday may have been the result.

SIMON: And General Hayden, what do we know about him?

KELLY: Well, he would be a very qualified candidate to run the CIA. He is, as you said, John Negroponte's deputy right now. Before that, he ran the National Security Agency. So he would bring to the job very strong management experience, certainly very strong intelligence experience. He was deeply respected at the NSA, despite presiding over tremendous change there. And I've met and interviewed him several times. He is a very likeable guy.

SIMON: Yeah. But can you anticipate the reaction at the CIA?

KELLY: Well, you know, I think that he will be a popular candidate. You know, there are two perhaps potential issues. One is, this will leave Negroponte with big shoes to fill. By all accounts, Hayden has really run things on a day-to-day basis for Mr. Negroponte, so you're potentially seeing disruption both at the CIA and the DNA. The other thing is, Hayden ran the NSA when it began the controversial domestic spying program, so in his confirmation hearings Hayden might come in for some tough questions.

SIMON: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, thanks very much.

KELLY: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.