Former CIA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden on Friday expressed "confidence and trust" in the agency's acting director, Michael Morell, and said he did not expect the rest of the world to view the resignation of Gen. David Petraeus as a sign of confusion or weakness in the U.S. intelligence operation.
"That's an internal American story," Gen. Hayden said of Gen. Petraeus' resignation. "This will have far more impact domestically than it will overseas."
Gen. Hayden, who served as CIA director under President George W. Bush before turning the reins over to Leon Panetta in 2009 at the start of President Barack Obama's administration, learned of the resignation Friday afternoon after addressing students and professors at Duquesne University on the topic of global security. A student in the auditorium started the question-and-answer session by asking Gen. Hayden if he was aware of the development.
"I knew something was going on because my cell phone was going crazy," he said. "And last night, there was a perceptible disturbance in the force."
Gen. Hayden said he knows Mr. Morell, who has been named interim CIA director, and trusts his ability to take the helm of the agency.
"He is a career CIA officer and he is highly regarded by both the current agency and the alumni association," Gen. Hayden said. "He has a very good relationship with the national security team and President Obama. I think the administration would be very comfortable with Michael Morell either permanently -- and I don't know this, I'm just making this up -- or for as long as it takes for them to name someone else.
"Michael was Leon Panetta's No. 2 and he became Gen. Petraeus' No. 2. Prior to that, he was my No. 3. He was President George W. Bush's [daily briefer]. And on the morning of Sept. 11, he was on the plane with the president. So, here's somebody who can step up and send out the message: Steady as she goes, quiet in the ranks."
Gen. Hayden said changes at the top of the CIA are not a reflection of the people responsible for the nation's intelligence operation.
"I told Leon Panetta -- the first time I met him -- I said, 'Leon, you're inheriting the best staff in the federal government. If you give them half a chance, they won't let you fail. The same way they wouldn't let me fail.' "
The thrust of Gen. Hayden's remarks at Duquesne on Friday and at another session this weekend were on the country's security in an ever-changing world. He said the top five international concerns facing Mr. Obama in his second term will be Iran, China, cyberthreats, terrorism and Mexico's drug cartels.
Iran and China are nations with which the administration can work, he said. But the other three problems are "subnational threats, all powered by globalization, pushing power down to substate actors and even down to individuals."
"It's the new flavor of danger," Gen. Hayden said. "All of the organs of states are designed to deal with other states. So we're finding it very difficult; we're not wired to deal with these."
He told the students that the most important tool to surviving in the new world is communication.
"You have to have understanding and to hold your government to a standard of accountability," he said. "It's about human beings. It's about people, and do not think that the people who sit in that Situation Room this afternoon making the big decisions are fundamentally different from your family around the Thanksgiving table after the meal's done. A little more experienced, probably a little more staff than your aunt or uncle, but fundamentally they're talking about the same things, and they're motivated by the same values."
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.