Soon after accepting the post of CIA director two years ago, Michael V. Hayden set an unusual goal for his scandal-beset agency: virtual invisibility.
"CIA needs to get out of the news as source or subject," he said in an internal memo to his staff in 2006.
Two years later, that goal is far from met, as Hayden has tacitly acknowledged. In a retirement ceremony last month marking the end of his military career, the Air Force general stressed the need for the agency to "stay in the shadows" while ignoring what he called the "sometimes shrill and uninformed voices of criticism."
The comment reflected the difficulties that Hayden's CIA faces in trying to turn the corner on six years of controversy at the same time that it attempts sweeping internal changes. While the agency's leadership has sought a return to normal and has launched initiatives intended to improve ties with lawmakers and foreign allies, it finds itself in the cross hairs of a Congress determined to force a reckoning over the agency's past intelligence failures and its conduct in the fight against terrorism.
The quickest way for CIA to get out of the newspapers is for CIA to stop breaking the law, stop letting contractors do their dirty work, and for Hayden and his management style to depart. The next President needs to appoint someone who will reduce the contractor workforce, emphasize professionalism over politics, and get us back into the business of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and get us out of the business of torturing people.