LANGLEY, Va. – President Bush gave the embattled Central Intelligence Agency his vote of confidence on Wednesday, saying the spy outfit will succeed at its mission and make Americans safer with new director Michael Hayden at its helm.
Bush made the quick trip from the White House to CIA headquarters in suburban Virginia for a ceremonial swearing-in of Hayden. The former head of the National Security Agency who served as the United States' No. 2 intelligence official for the last year was officially sworn in Tuesday and had already had his first day on the job when Bush arrived.
"He's such a good man we're going to swear him in twice," the president joked.
While the CIA once was pre-eminent among the U.S. intelligence community's 15 other spy agencies, the 2004 intelligence reform law made it equal to other organizations including the NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency.
Bush, seeking to both reassure CIA employees and spur them on to additional changes, said he had tasked Hayden with further developing the agency's old-fashioned spy capabilities and improving its analytical skills.
"America's leaders are going to have the best possible intelligence and Mike Hayden is going to work with you to see that that's the case," the president said. "Mike understands the CIA must transform to confront new dangers and do so without slowing the high tempo at which it already operates."
Bush appeared warmly welcomed by the several hundred employees gathered in the CIA's main lobby despite his White House's tussles with the CIA and the agency's tradition of remaining distant from politics. He said he is confident a Hayden-led CIA can deliver.
"In Mike Hayden, you have a leader who recognizes your talents, who understands your challenges and will ensure that you remain the finest intelligence agency in the world," Bush said.
The president was briefed privately on unknown topics for about 45 minutes before the short public event.
After taking the oath for a second time, Hayden spoke briefly to the CIA's officers in his blue Air Force uniform, four stars on each shoulder. This week marks the first time since 1953 that the agency has been headed by an active duty military officer.
"Let's just go to work," he said.