The US Senate hearings are a platform for our voluble senators to talk endlessly and posture before the American public and C-Span cameras. The exercise often appears to be designed for the senators to showcase their hard hitting questioning abilities, sharp wit, insider knowledge and gift of the gab. The apparent objective is to get to the bottom of things and make informed decisions. More often than not, the decision is a foregone conclusion - leaving us to wonder why they even bother with the futile theatrics.
Yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee's confirmation hearings for Michael Hayden, Bush's nominee to head the CIA who is implicated in the NSA snooping on Americans, was no exception. Many words were exchanged - some cryptic ones. Dana Milbank of Washington Post has a collection of the important sounding jargon that was thrown around during the exchange between Hayden and the senators.
"The would-be DCI, currently the deputy DNI, really knows his ABCs.
Gen. Michael Hayden, President Bush's choice to head the CIA, hasn't told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee very much during his confirmation hearing Thursday. But he sure can talk the talk.
"As director of NSA, I was the national SIGINT manager," he said. "I would use this important new authority, the national HUMINT manager, to enhance the standards of tradecraft."
This intrigued Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. "HUMINT is obviously the chief responsibility of CIA. You have been a SIGINT man for most of your career. ... How will you adjust to HUMINT?" he asked.
"I've actually been a HUMINTer," the nominee replied. "Actually I have more HUMINT experience going to CIA than I have SIGINT experience before I arrived at NSA."
Hayden informed Bond that "there are other folks out there on the field playing this game — DOD, the FBI." He also disclosed "they talked about the MOU that had been signed between the DOD and the CIA in terms of how to coordinate and deconflict HUMINT activity."
Bond pressed on. "There was some objection within the agency to the DNI sending two dozen CT analysts to the National Counterterrorism Center as part of the lanes in the road," he said. "To what extent should the NCTC be engaged in the all-source terrorism analysis?"
"Sir, it's a complicated question," Hayden said with obvious understatement. It was important, he said to sustain "high OPSTEMPO current CIA operations."
Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, wanted to show he could keep up with the big boys. "Talk to me a little bit about what NASIC has done, the SAVANT program," he charged the nominee.
Whatever Hayden was saying, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., didn't like what he was hearing. He wondered if Hayden had "parsed your words like a lawyer to intentionally mislead the public."
By way of answer, Hayden made reference to his "testimony in front of the combined HPSCI and SSCI."
After a few hours of this, almost everybody in the press and public seats had left the hearing room. It was time for some Z's. Critics may say that the SSCI -- that's the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- is AWOL these days when it comes to oversight. But, FYI, no one would doubt these guys are A-OK with their ABCs."
Glossary for us mere mortals:
- DCI: Director of Central Intelligence
- DNI: Director of National Intelligence
- DOD: Department of Defense
- NSA: National Security Administration
- SIGINT: Signal Intelligence
- HUMINT: Human Intelligence
- MOU: memorandum of understanding
- CT: Counterterrorism
- NCTC: National Counterterrorism Center
- OPSTEMPO: operations tempo
- NASIC: National Air and Space Intelligence Center
- HPSCI: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
- SSCI: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- SAVANT - Situation Awareness Verification and Analysis Tool
Sounds like a load of BS to me. If you want to know what was REALLY said, see here.