President Bush has nominated Air Force General Michael Hayden to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, days after the surprise resignation of Director Porter Goss.
President Bush says General Hayden is well qualified to head the CIA, as a man with more than 20 years of experience in intelligence work, including six years as director of the National Security Agency.
"Mike knows our intelligence community from the ground up," the president said. "He has been both a provider and a consumer of intelligence. He has overseen the development of both human and technological intelligence. He has demonstrated an ability to adapt our intelligence services to the new challenges of the war on terror. He is the right man to lead the CIA at the critical moment in our nation's history."
In his most recent post as deputy director of national intelligence, General Hayden oversaw controversial domestic eavesdropping operations. Civil rights groups and others have criticized the program as an infringement on Americans' liberty and right to privacy. But General Hayden has insisted it is vital to detecting terrorist threats.
Speaking from the Oval Office, President Bush said he expects General Hayden to continue reforms at the CIA begun by Porter Goss, whose reasons for stepping down have not been made pubic. Mr. Bush said the CIA's work has never been more important to the security of the American people.
When he took the podium, General Hayden paid tribute to Porter Goss, and then to CIA employees.
"To the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency, if I am confirmed, I would be honored to join you, and work with so many good friends," he said. "Your achievements are frequently under-appreciated and hidden from the public eye. But, you know what you do to protect the republic."
To head the CIA, General Hayden must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Some legislators, including a few from President Bush's Republican Party, have voiced concerns about putting a military officer at the head of a civilian agency.