- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2005


John D. Negroponte yesterday won easy approval by the Senate to become the first national intelligence director, a job created last year to better coordinate U.S. spy agencies in the wake of criticism after the September 11, 2001, attacks and the war in Iraq.

Within 45 minutes of his approval, Mr. Negroponte was sworn in at the White House by chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. President Bush witnessed the ceremony. Probably beginning next week, Mr. Negroponte will take over the task of giving Mr. Bush a daily briefing on intelligence matters, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Mr. Negroponte, 65, has said this was his “most challenging assignment” in more than 40 years of government service. The Senate voted 98-2 to approve the former Iraq ambassador for the job.

Mr. Negroponte now oversees the intelligence agencies that were criticized for failures leading up to the 2001 terrorist attacks and for their prewar intelligence on Iraq. Mr. Bush said Mr. Negroponte “will lead a unified intelligence community as it reforms and adapts to the new challenges” of this century.

In the summer, the independent September 11 commission urged Congress to create a single, powerful director to oversee all 15 intelligence agencies. Congress approved the post in December as part of the most significant overhaul to the intelligence system since 1947.

Yet, intelligence veterans and some lawmakers still question whether the job comes with enough power to lead the highly competitive agencies that handle everything from recruiting spies to studying satellite imagery.

“He’s going to carry heavy burdens,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I am convinced, however, that he has the character, that he has the expertise, and he has the leadership skills to successfully meet these challenges and shoulder these responsibilities.”

Also yesterday, the Senate unanimously approved the nomination of Mr. Negroponte’s deputy, Michael Hayden, who used to lead the National Security Agency.

A diplomat most of his career, Mr. Negroponte speaks five languages and has held official posts in eight countries, including ambassadorships in Mexico and the Philippines. He was in President Reagan’s National Security Council from 1987 to 1989.

Since Mr. Negroponte left Iraq last month, he has met with many lawmakers. West Virginia Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the two discussed issues such as whether changes are needed in the intelligence director’s powers.

“Reform of the intelligence community will involve stepping on the turf of some of the most powerful bureaucracies in Washington; first and foremost among those is the Department of Defense,” Mr. Rockefeller said yesterday.

The Pentagon controls 80 percent of the intelligence community’s estimated $40 billion budget.

Voting against Mr. Negroponte were Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Mr. Wyden questioned whether Mr. Negroponte adequately had reported human rights abuses as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s.

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