ACLU Calls on Hayden to Honor the Bill of Rights and Follow Federal Law, Says New CIA Director’s NSA Past Could Taint Agency’s Future

May 26, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed concern as the Senate confirmed General Michael Hayden as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. General Hayden was most recently Deputy Director of National Intelligence and was the Director of the National Security Agency when the illegal surveillance programs were initiated.

“Stepping into his new position, General Hayden must now conform to the rule of law,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Not only permitting, but directing, the warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans while head of the NSA is a troubling record. We are hopeful that General Hayden will begin anew and start respecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

The Senate confirmed Hayden today in a vote of 78-15, with a bipartisan group of senators opposing his confirmation.

General Hayden was questioned by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but refused to answer simple, direct questions from that panel. Hayden repeatedly declined to answer questions, noting that he would only respond in a “closed session” to a majority of the questions, including basic questions about following federal laws. His statements shed no new light on how far and wide the NSA’s illegal program has cast its net on innocent Americans.

Additionally, Hayden’s decision not to comment on the CIA’s policy on torture and unlawful rendition sends an unnerving message to a worldwide audience. The ACLU reiterated that these practices must be stopped and General Hayden must now play an integral part in bringing the CIA back in line with the Constitution and international human rights law.

“General Hayden’s confirmation hearing offered no useful information and was a disservice to the American people,” said Lisa Graves, Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “The lack of vigorous questioning by some Senators was disappointing but General Hayden’s answers were even more so. Straightforward answers about straightforward national security and privacy issues should not be so easily eschewed. We can only hope that General Hayden will make a new start in his new role, and protect both Americans and our fundamental freedoms.”

The ACLU is a non-partisan organization and neither endorses or opposes government agency nominations.

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the warrantless NSA spying program, go to:

Read a related release: ACLU Lawsuit Takes on AT&T and Verizon in California

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