The Washington Post has yet to editorialize on the nomination of Air Force General Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as CIA Director, but they’ve already done a fine job of debunking the notion that a uniformed officer has no business running the civilian CIA. Of course, that was when a liberal president picked a liberal admiral to run the agency.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Post sided with President Jimmy Carter when he named Navy Admiral Stansfield Turner, at the time the commander-in chief of Allied Forces in Southern Europe. The Post called objections to Turner’s military pedigree “misguided” and “insulting.” An excerpt of the Post’s February 9, 1977 editorial, headlined "Why Not a Military Man at CIA?" retrieved via Nexis:
The nomination of Admiral Stansfield Turner to be Director of Central Intelligence has confounded some people because of the fact that he is a professional military man. By this particular line of thinking, no one in uniform can fairly be expected to rise above parochial service concerns — either in his perception of the international environment or in his capacity to work effectively within the confines of the political society. This is no doubt a fashionable argument but — in our judgment — a misguided, insulting one. It should not be necessary to point to earlier examples of versatile and accomplished military men, or to civilians — including some at the Central Intelligence Agency — who went about their work in what some would call a simplistic “militaristic” way. Admiral Turner seems exactly the right man to prove the point anew....
Of course, Jimmy Carter and Stansfield Turner proved a grim team to lead the CIA, so the admiral’s example may not be very helpful to General Hayden. As for Turner himself, MRC’s Mike Rule caught his appearance on this morning’s Early Show on CBS, where he agreed there’s no reason a military man couldn’t run the CIA.
Turner told co-host Hannah Storm, “I think there are times in our history when it's good to have a military person in this spot. No reason not to do so.”
But the liberal Turner, a frequent critic of the Bush administration, doesn’t want Hayden to get the job because of Hayden’s backing of the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program, the kind of aggressive program that would have been quickly nixed by the Carter administration:
Hannah Storm: “So, Admiral Turner, given his involvement in this wiretapping program, and his defense of its legality, do you believe that General Hayden is the best person for this job?”
Turner replied, “I happen to think not, because I happen to think that the wiretapping was illegal.”
UPDATE 10:10am May 9: As they did 29 years ago, today's Washington Post argues that the objection to a military officer running the CIA is a "red herring." An excerpt from today's editorial, "Commanding the CIA":
Congressional defenders of the CIA have questioned whether it is proper for the agency to be headed by an active-duty senior military officer. This is a red herring. Not only has Gen. Hayden spent most of his career in intelligence work, but he has also strongly supported Mr. Negroponte's attempt to exercise authority over the NSA and other Pentagon intelligence agencies, over the stiff resistance of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. There are legitimate reasons for concern about the Pentagon's aggressive expansion of its intelligence operations, but Gen. Hayden's appointment will mean increased clout for the DNI, not the DOD. Mr. Negroponte's announcement yesterday that Gen. Hayden's CIA deputy would probably be Stephen R. Kappes, the highly regarded former deputy director of operations who was senselessly driven out by Mr. Goss, should reassure the agency's professional staff.
At least they're consistent.