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Senators Press Hayden on NSA Spying, Iraq

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The Senate Intelligence Committee grills Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the president's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Much of the questioning has centered on Hayden's role in designing two controversial National Security Agency programs: warrantless eavesdropping on international phone calls made from or to the United States, and the collection of the phone records of American citizens.

While President Bush says he authorized the NSA's domestic surveillance program, the administration has refused to either confirm or deny the recent reports that the NSA, under Gen. Hayden's leadership, collected the phone records of millions of customers from phone companies.

The intelligence committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), opened the hearing by blasting leaks to the media that have made the two NSA programs public.

The questioning quickly turned to the domestic surveillance program -- which Gen. Hayden and the Republican committee-members referred to as the terrorist surveillance program. Asked by Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) if lawyers at the NSA or the Bush administration assured him the program was legal, Hayden said they had. And when Bond followed up by asking if the general himself considered the program to be illegal, Hayden replied, he did not.

Other questions put to Hayden involved the reliability of intelligence on Iraq and Iran and the treatment of detainees. Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan said that any new CIA director would take over an agency "in disarray". He accused former director George Tenet of "misusing Iraq intelligence to support the administration's policy agenda."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Larry Abramson
Larry Abramson is NPR's National Security Correspondent. He covers the Pentagon, as well as issues relating to the thousands of vets returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.