ACLU Calls on Senators to Vigorously Question General Hayden, Says Controversial CIA Nominee Raises Serious Civil Liberties Concerns

May 18, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to thoroughly question General Michael V. Hayden at his confirmation hearing to be the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Hayden was the Director of the National Security Agency when that agency began a warrantless program to spy on Americans and data-mine their phone records, and has been one of the chief advocates for this illegal monitoring of Americans’ communications.

“The Senate has a constitutional obligation to vigorously question this controversial nominee, and they should hold General Hayden’s feet to the fire,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “We urge the committee to break through the stonewalling that we have seen thus far. The rule of law was broken under General Hayden’s watch and Congress is entitled to honest answers about what led to illegal wiretapping and how extensive the violations of Americans’ rights have been.”

Today’s hearing follows a move by the White House to belatedly provide both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as required by law, with classified briefings on the warrantless NSA wiretapping and data-mining of Americans’ communications. The ACLU noted that there must be more than just political appeasement to ease Hayden’s confirmation, and this initial briefing to the full committees must be followed by full disclosure and real congressional oversight.

The ACLU has also called on Inspector General Fine at the Justice Department to investigate that department’s involvement in illegal NSA spying program. The IG’s involvement is necessary given that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has been denied the required security clearances to conduct its own investigation into the warrantless eavesdropping program. Attorney General Gonzales has rejected repeated calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the program.

In addition to the concerns surrounding the NSA’s illegal activities, the ACLU also urged lawmakers to question Hayden about how the CIA would respect the rule of law under his guidance. That agency also has a demonstrated pattern of violating federal laws, including ratified treaties, at the direction of the White House.

“This is also an opportunity for Senators to demand that the CIA uphold the rule of law,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The practice of unlawful rendition, the torture and abuse of prisoners and the use of ‘black sites,’ or secret prisons operated overseas, all violate the spirit and letter of our Constitution and laws. Those who oversee our nation’s intelligence agencies must have the highest respect and regard for our rule of law.”

The ACLU is a non-partisan organization, and takes no official position on Hayden’s nomination.

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

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