Q&A: Gen. Michael Hayden
U.S. News's Kevin Whitelaw and David E. Kaplan interviewed CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden in his seventh-floor office at CIA headquarters. Before arriving at the CIA in May 2006, he served as the first deputy director of national intelligence. Now a four-star general and the U.S. military's highest-ranking intelligence officer, Hayden was also the longest-serving director of the National Security Agency, which is responsible for intercepting electronic communications.
You started at the DNI's office and have now come over here to the CIA. What surprises have you found here? What was different about being here?
Not a whole lot of surprises, really. What I told the workforce the first day here was [that] we don't need to do so much fretting about being the Central Intelligence Agency. I said, this agency's got so much connective tissue to the other parts of the intelligence community that if we're competent, and if we're collaborative, both of which are totally within our control, there is no question that we'll be "central." I said if we're in a meeting, we're going to govern the thought process of that meeting, not because we're representing the [director of central intelligence] but because we're the smartest guy in the room on the subject being discussed.
That was one aspect that I could see from where I had been, that a lot of the instinctive concern that this agency had had about the DNIthey didn't need to be worrying about some of those things. That was actually one of the earliest messages.
Did that get through?
I think it did. You know, the next line out of my mouth on that morning was, "Let's just go back to work. Let's just do our job and not worry about this because it's not worth worrying about."
The other aspect, and this is not a paid political advertisement, having the DNI is actually liberating for the guy in this office. I can't imagine. … My workday starts here; they pick me up at 6:45; I'm reading the [President's Daily Brief], all right? I've read through the PDB book, which is more than just what the president gets, but all the other cables I should be looking at, and I'm done before [DNI] John Negroponte goes into the Oval Office. So, I am now the director of an agency, in mind as well as body, by 8 o'clock, whereas George [Tenet] when he was doing this or Porter [Goss], couldn't turn his attention to the smooth functioning of this agency until much later in the day. … So, it really is, I've used the word, liberating.
The director of the CIA used to have a second title, director of central intelligence, to reflect his role of coordinating the intelligence community. Now, the DNI does that second job. Does having the DNI give you some cover to run the CIA?
I wouldn't use the word cover … but when I was the director of [the National Security Agency] and I would sit there and George would sit here and we'd talk about issues, and George would have views … I mean, I love George like a brother, but I was never sure on this or that issue, whether I was talking to the DCI or the [director of the CIA]. The DNI doesn't have that issue. … There's less reason for people, for whatever reason, to question whether or not that's the community view, because he only represents the community. There are those downtown who say it's an extra layer of bureaucracy and it gets in the way. I wouldn't state that that strongly. It can be a challenge sometimes to respond to questions or to do things in a way that the DNI would want you to do them as opposed to way the agency would have done them, if left to its own devices, but it's not overly burdensome. …