As US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte already has a tough
job. But now he's in line for something that in its own way might be
tougher: service as the first US director of national intelligence.
Iraq is dangerous, of course, and its politics intense.
In Washington, however, Ambassador Negroponte may find that the
DNI post comes with unprecedented responsibility, and less power
If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte will be expected to set
overall budgets for a constellation of US intelligence agencies,
many of which might fight major changes he wishes to make.
By law, he'll be the president's chief adviser on intelligence
matters - but he'll have no direct control over actual intelligence
What's more, on his very own issues he'll have lots of
competition for the president's ear.
"Negroponte is going to have to fend for himself out there, with
the ambiguities in the law, and hope he can make it work on the
basis of goodwill," says Stansfield Turner, former director of
President Bush announced his pick of Negroponte for the DNI slot
at a snap Thursday press conference. It came at a time when the
administration was coming under increasing criticism for slowness in
trying to fill the job.
On Wednesday, for instance, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D) of
West Virginia, the ranking minority member of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, complained publicly of "foot-dragging," and
called the delay in naming a DNI "simply unacceptable."
In announcing his choice, President Bush said that Negroponte
understands the intelligence needs of US policymakers, plus the need
to make intelligence agencies work together.
"If we're going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we
must ensure that our intelligence agencies work as a single, unified
enterprise," said President Bush.
With Negroponte, Bush has a veteran security official whose wide-
ranging background may make him an obvious fit for the post.
But Negroponte's confirmation may not be a slam dunk. As
ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85, he played a prominent role in
aiding the contra rebels in their war with the left-wing Sandinista
government in neighboring Nicaragua.
In past some human rights groups have alleged that Negroponte
knew about and did not disapprove of the activities of Honduran
death squads funded and partly trained by the CIA. Negroponte has
testified that he did not believe death squads were operating in
He was personally never held responsible for any actions of the
death squads, but some officials within the CIA were, and in the
early 1990s the US government forced the CIA to change its methods
for recruiting and maintaining foreign agents after the abuses
became public. …