The Next Head of the CIA?

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President Bush watches as Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden is sworn in as Deputy Director of National Intelligence in May, 2005

President George W. Bush stunned Washington on Friday by accepting the resignation of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, and Republican sources told TIME that the White House plans to name his replacement on Monday: Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, who as Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence has been a visible and aggressive defender of the administration's controversial eavesdropping program. His nomination is sure to reignite the battle over the program on Capitol Hill, where one House Democrat promises "a partisan food fight" during the confirmation process.

Though Hayden, who has a close rapport with Vice President Cheney, has not been formally offered the job, he is the leading candidate and the announcement is planned for Monday at the White House, the sources said. The President frequently extends a formal offer immediately before an announcement, to cut down on leaks and allow for last-minute developments.

White House officials had hoped to announce Goss's departure and Hayden's nomination at the same time but Goss, who resigned under pressure, balked at that kind of choreography. "He said, 'If we're going to do this, let's go ahead and do it,'' a senior administration official said.

Bush and Goss appeared together along with Negroponte in the Oval Office after lunch Friday in a terse, three-minute ceremony announced with just 50 minutes' notice. A senior administration official said Negroponte, with the blessing of the White House, began talking with Goss about leaving a couple of weeks ago. "The creation of the DNI has been a transformational and very tumultuous time for the intelligence community and particularly the CIA," the senior administration official said. "When you ask somebody to do so much transformational change, often it makes sense to let somebody then take the agency forward from there."

Goss, a former Republican House member from Florida who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, formally offered his resignation at about 9:30 a.m. Friday in the office of Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, following a National Security Council meeting. Goss then talked with Bush before the departure announcement, where they were seated in front of the fireplace the White House uses for photo opportunities with visiting world leaders. Although Bush put his hand on Goss's arm as journalists were herded in, the President betrayed none of his usual reluctance at a high-level departure. "This morning, Director Porter Goss offered his resignation as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; I've accepted it," Bush said matter-of-factly. "I've established a very close, personal relationship with Porter, which is very important for the Director of the CIA." Goss then spoke briefly, saying that the agency "is on a very even keel, sailing well" and that the Agency has "improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities."

It was Hayden who appeared in the White House briefing room in December to defend a highly classified National Security Agency program that includes interception of domestic phone calls and e-mail messages without warrants if one of the parties has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Hayden said at the National Press Club in January: "It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about. This is targeted and focused."

The senior administration official said Hayden was chosen for the job for his "natural leadership qualities" and his "decades of experience in the intelligence community." "He's been a customer of it, he's been a producer of it," the official said. Hayden, who entered active duty in 1969 and is the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in the armed forces, has been Director of the National Security Agency, Commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and Director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center. Hayden has bachelor's and master's degrees from Duquesne University. His first assignment was in January 1970 as an analyst and briefer at the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. That was a classic Cold War post, and he now will be in charge of helping a glamorous but struggling part of the government adapt to a very different world.

The Director of Central Intelligence, a post of legendary power and intrigue during the Cold War, has been partially eclipsed by the Director of National Intelligence position that was created as part of a restructuring in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then neither Goss nor John D. Negroponte, the first occupant of the new DNI position, ever seemed comfortable with the arrangement, which notably shifted the responsibilities of delivering the daily intelligence briefing to the President to Negroponte.

The departure was the culmination of a turf war between Goss and Negroponte. A U.S. official told TIME that he thought Goss "was standing up for the Central Intelligence Agency" and was concerned "that some of the core capabilities of the Agency that let it accomplish its mission might be eroded with the growth of the DNI apparatus."

"We were beginning to reach a point where some of the core capabilities of the CIA might be placed in jeopardy," the official said. "When the way ahead was sketched out, the director thought there were some problems there."

But the senior administration official countered: "The President has been very focused on the improvements of the intelligence capabilities of the CIA. He understand that particularly with tough cases like North Korea and Iran and elsewhere, you've got to have good human intelligence resources, and that's the CIA's bread and butter. You also have to have good, smart analysis, and that's another thing that the CIA is the heart of. But the new law has a new head of the intelligence community. That's the Director of National Intelligence. The custom and the culture of the intelligence community is catching up with that fact. The President will choose somebody who will continue to close the gap between the law and reality." With reporting by Massimo Calabresi/Washington