by digby

Washington Whispers:

As President-elect Barack Obama continues to build his national security staff, now focused on intelligence, it is possible that he might ask CIA Director Mike Hayden to stay on for a while, intelligence sources say. Much of the speculation about the CIA job has been that Obama wants a change, in part because he disagreed with the CIA's detention policies. But officials are pushing back a little on that issue, suggesting that Hayden has been carrying out the policies backed by Congress and the president before he arrived at Langley, not freelancing on his own. "It's unfair to blame Hayden for things that occurred long before he took the job. But he deserves credit for standing up for the folks over there at CIA, even though a lot of the stuff he has dealt with didn't happen on his watch," said an intelligence official. "Administration policy and American law shape what the CIA does. If the president says he doesn't want something done, that's it. These are his programs," added the official.

February 2008:

"The circumstances under which we are operating ... are frankly, different than they were in late 2001 and early 2002," Hayden said. "Very critical to those circumstances was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were imminent. In addition to that, my agency ... had limited knowledge about al Qaeda and its workings. Those two realities have changed."

Hayden told reporters later that the interrogations of Mohammed and Zubaydah were particularly fruitful.

From the time of their capture in 2002 and 2003 until they were delivered to Guantanamo Bay prison in 2006, the two suspects accounted for one-fourth of the human intelligence reports on al Qaeda, Hayden said.

Some analysts have questioned Mohammed's credibility under interrogation. But Hayden said most of the information was reliable and helped lead to other al Qaeda suspects.

He told the committee he opposed limiting the CIA to using interrogation techniques permitted in the U.S. Army Field Manual, which bans waterboarding. CIA interrogators are better trained, and the agency works with a narrower range of suspects in its interrogations, he said.

Hayden said fewer than 100 people had been held in the CIA's terrorism detention and interrogation program launched after the Sept. 11 attacks, with fewer than one-third of them subjected to any harsh interrogation techniques.

But applying the field manual's limitations to the CIA, he said, "would substantially increase the danger to America."

It's hard for me to see how he reconciles those statements with a new policy. It seems to me that if he honestly believed that the danger to the country would be "substantially" increased if the CIA were not allowed to torture, he cannot in good conscience work for someone who disagrees. Or he was lying.

The politics of this are getting really interesting. Last week there was a lot of fretting about the left being hostile to the CIA and holding it to a ridiculous standard by insisting that members of the torture regime not be elevated or retained in high level jobs in the new administration. I mentioned a couple of times that I thought it was a bit of a stretch to believe that the Obama transition team was so cowed by some blog posts that they asked Brennan to remove his name. Certainly, these unnamed, unhappy CIA sources seemed awfully gullible if they believed that liberal bloggers had such power.

Greenwald gives the full treatment today to the way the Brennan backlash story was coordinated through the media. It's quite astonishing. But this leak to Washington Whispers makes me think there might be some method to the madness if the real point was to inoculate Hayden (or a similar company man.) After all this complaining over Brennan, Obama can't be seen to have "succumbed" to another blogger witchhunt at this point or risk have the village roar that he's being held hostage by the left on national security.

Obama certainly doesn't have to nominate a company man just because they want him to. But it's the kind of thing the bureaucracies do to protect their turf and show who's boss when a new president comes to town, particularly among the police and national security state apparatus. (They may be particularly inclined to do it this time after the humiliation routinely meted out by Dick Cheney over the past eight years.)

It's just a theory, of course, and this floating of Hayden could just be wishful thinking. But if the CIA is seeking to pressure the new administration to hire one of their own, this would be a clever way to frame it: if Obama doesn't pick one of theirs, he will be portrayed as captive to the Left on national security. And naturally, the press runs with it because it fits their favorite storyline as well.

Whatever is happening, this notion that liberal bloggers vetoed a choice to run the CIA just doesn't scan. Whether my speculation above is correct or not, there's definitely something else going on.