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Pentagon's intelligence role rising

The Senate hearing begins Thursday for General Hayden as CIA director.

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If the recent past is any guide, Thursday's Senate hearing to consider Gen. Michael Hayden for the post of CIA director will spend no small amount of time examining the nominee's military ties.

At any point during the past few decades, the plan to put a military man at the head of America's premier civilian spy agency would probably have caused some controversy. But the nomination of General Hayden comes at a time when the Pentagon is already working to dramatically expand its role in intelligence operations.

For their part, experts widely agree that Hayden is independent and not likely to be bullied by the Department of Defense. But the issue points to how the war on terror is reshaping the US intelligence structure - and whether it is wise for the Pentagon to take more of the nation's spying needs upon itself.

Perhaps more than in past conflicts, success in the war on terror depends upon good intelligence and prompt action, so "it's only natural that the Department of Defense wants to have more control," says Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The issue becomes: Where do you draw the line?"

As in all matters that involve clandestine intelligence gathering, the outlines of who does what are not immediately clear. America's intelligence structure is a tangled bureaucracy of 16 civilian and military agencies.

Yet traditionally, the Pentagon had focused its sensors and satellites mostly on enemy militaries, and some 80 percent of the annual intelligence budget has gone to agencies under the Pentagon's umbrella. Other missions, most notably counterterrorism, have fallen to other agencies such as the CIA.

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