The Briar Patch, Please!

The White House says that General Michael Hayden is the leading choice to replace Porter Goss at the CIA. That’s great; Hayden comes out of the NSA and is an eloquent and effective advocate of the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program. The New York Times warns President Bush that Hayden’s nomination would cause controversy:

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who senior administration officials said Friday was the likely choice of President Bush to head the Central Intelligence Agency, has a stellar résumé for a spy and has long been admired at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

But General Hayden, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, would also face serious questions about the controversy over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program, which he oversaw and has vigorously defended.

His Senate nomination hearing, if he is chosen to succeed Director Porter J. Goss, is likely to reignite debate over what civil libertarians say is the program’s violation of Americans’ privacy.

The Times gives us a preview of the debate by quoting a critic of the NSA program:

Marc D. Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said the nomination would be strongly opposed by civil libertarians.

“We have to confront the chilling prospect that the incoming head of the C.I.A. believes it’s permissible to conduct warrantless surveillance on the American public,” Mr. Rotenberg said Friday night.

What’s really chilling is that the federal courts believe the same thing, having approved at least two dozen categories of warrantless surveillance of the American public, including warrantless spying used to gain foreign intelligence.

To all of this I say: great! Hardly anything would give the Republican faithful a bigger boost than the spectacle of Senate Democrats attacking an Air Force general for trying to protect America against terrorism. Please, Democrats, please don’t deny us this opportunity. And could we possibly schedule the hearing closer to November?

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