- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

In a day of shake-ups for the Bush administration yesterday, President Bush lost his chief counsel and signaled he will shift the top intelligence official to become the No. 2 diplomat at the State Department, and will tap a former admiral to take his place as head of the intelligence community.

Meanwhile, several press reports say Mr. Bush has decided to move the U.S. ambassador to Iraq to become the ambassador to the United Nations, and has chosen a new military leader to lead U.S. forces in the war on terrorism.

The changes come as he is working on a new strategy for Iraq, which Mr. Bush said he will announce next week.

Mr. Bush today will tap John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence (DNI), to become Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, and will nominate retired Navy Vice Adm. Mike McConnell to fill his intelligence post, according to a senior administration official.

“What you’ve got are two guys of undisputed quality,” the official told reporters.

Both positions require Senate confirmation, and the official predicted easy confirmation. Mr. Negroponte was confirmed 98-2 by the Senate for the intelligence post in 2005, and the official said Adm. McConnell will impress senators when he meets them.

But senators said they were disappointed Mr. Negroponte was leaving the position he has held since it was created just two years ago, saying he has made strides but there is a lot more work to be done.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the vacancy is all the more troubling because the intelligence deputy’s slot has been vacant since May. He said he will try to make sure a replacement is confirmed before Mr. Negroponte departs for the diplomatic post.

Officials said the move to the State Department would suit Mr. Negroponte, a career Foreign Service officer.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack described Mr. Negroponte as a “diplomat’s diplomat” with all the qualifications required to fill the department’s second-most-powerful post.

His appointment would fill the vacancy created when former Deputy Secretary Robert B. Zoellick left in July for a job on Wall Street.

Adm. McConnell would bring intelligence experience to the DNI post, having headed the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996.

He is a well-regarded career military intelligence specialist but also someone who is not expected to initiate or oversee major reforms, current and former intelligence officials said.

“If you give him a problem, he can fix it,” said one former senior intelligence official who supports Adm. McConnell. “But he’s not going to make major reforms that are needed.”

Mr. Negroponte was the first DNI under reforms that grew out of the September 11 intelligence failures, and critics of the new office say it created a new layer of bureaucracy in an overly bureaucratic intelligence system.

Meanwhile, both Reuters news agency and ABC News reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, will be nominated as the next ambassador to the United Nations, and ABC reported Mr. Bush has chosen Adm. William J. Fallon to replace Gen. John Abizaid as the head of U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the change that hits closest to Mr. Bush, Harriet E. Miers, the White House’s chief counsel who conservatives blocked from becoming a Supreme Court justice in 2005, announced she is resigning her position in the administration.

Miss Miers, 61, had followed Mr. Bush from Texas, where she was his personal lawyer and counsel to his campaign, to the White House. There, she was staff secretary and deputy chief of staff before becoming chief counsel two years ago.

“She’s been here for six years. It’s hard duty,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said in announcing her departure, which is effective Jan. 31.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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