WASHINGTON – Good morning.
This week I nominated General Mike Hayden to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The work of the CIA is essential to the security of the American people. The enemies who struck our Nation on September the 11th, 2001, intend to attack us again, and to defeat them, we must have the best possible intelligence. In Mike Hayden, the men and women of the CIA will have a strong leader who will support them as they work to disrupt terrorist attacks, penetrate closed societies, and gain information that is vital to protecting our Nation.
General Hayden is supremely qualified to lead the CIA. For the last year, he's been our Nation's first Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and has played a critical role in our efforts to reform America's intelligence capabilities to meet the threats of a new century. He has more than 20 years of experience in the intelligence field. He served for six years as Director of the National Security Agency and has a track record of success in leading and transforming that large intelligence agency. He also has held senior positions at the Pentagon and the National Security Council, and he served behind the Iron Curtain in our embassy in Bulgaria during the Cold War.
Mike knows our intelligence community from the ground up. He's been both a producer and a consumer of intelligence and has overseen both human and technical intelligence activities, as well as the all-source analysis derived from those activities. Mike was unanimously confirmed by the Senate last year for his current post, and this week members of both parties have praised his nomination. I urge the Senate to confirm him promptly as the next Director of the CIA.
During General Hayden's tenure at the NSA, he helped establish and run one of our most vital intelligence efforts in the War on Terror — the Terrorist Surveillance Program. As the 9/11 Commission and others have noted, our government failed to connect the dots in the years before the attacks of September the 11th. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States made phone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas, but we did not know about their plans until it was too late.
So to prevent another attack, I authorized the National Security Agency — consistent with the Constitution and laws — to intercept international communications in which one party has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist groups. This terrorist surveillance program makes it more likely that killers like the 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. It has helped prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad, and it remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it. We will not sit back and wait to be attacked again.
This week, new claims have been made about other ways we are tracking down al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. It is important for Americans to understand that our activities strictly target al Qaeda and its known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. The intelligence activities I have authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda terrorists and its affiliates who want to harm the American people.
Americans expect their government to do everything in its power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. That is exactly what we are doing. And so far, we have been successful in preventing another attack on our soil. The men and women of the CIA are working around the clock to make our Nation more secure. I am confident that General Hayden will strengthen the CIA and integrate its vital work with our other intelligence agencies, so we can defeat the terrorists of the 21st century.
Thank you for listening.