Experts to John Negroponte: If confirmed by the Senate, you'll be
the first true czar of US intelligence. Make sure you act the part.
Redirect a spy satellite. Change some figures in a budget. Fire
somebody. Or promote them.
Don't pick a fight for a fight's sake, but throw your weight
around at the first good opportunity - and make sure the White House
Otherwise, the CIA and the Defense Department may decide they can
take your lunch money. And then last year's big intelligence reform
bill won't have reformed much at all.
"The most important thing for him to do is to somehow establish
that he's in charge, and that the president is going to back him
up," says former director of central intelligence Stansfield Turner.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence
Committee Tuesday, Mr.Negroponte declined to outline any specific
actions he might take in his first days on the job. He said he is
still poring over the recommendations of the numerous recent
commissions on US intelligence, which overall have been highly
critical of past intelligence agency performance.
He did say, however, that he understands the imperative that led
the Congress and the White House to create the new post of director
of national intelligence.
"Our intelligence effort has to generate better results. That's
my mandate pure and simple," said Negroponte.
A veteran of tough US government jobs, Negroponte served most
recently as US ambassador to Iraq. Perhaps the most controversial
aspect of his career was his stint in the early 1980s as ambassador
to Honduras. Critics claimed that he ignored death-squad activity by
the Honduran military at a time when the Reagan administration was
trying to roll back communist insurgencies throughout the region.
Nonetheless, Negroponte seems a lock for confirmation. Democrats
on the intelligence panel said they were more concerned about recent
intelligence failures than the nominee's personal history. "I am
interested in mainly the massive intelligence failures of the
intelligence community, and whether or not he is going to help
correct and address the abysmal failures of accountability and
responsibility there," said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, a
senior minority member of the committee.
That won't be an easy job. For one thing, the 200-plus page law
that established Negroponte's new position is not as specific about
the job's powers as it might be.
The most important ambiguities deal with Negroponte's authority
over the budget, his authority with respect to the other leaders of
the intelligence community, and his overall ability to conduct
performance reviews, says William Webster, a former director of
central intelligence and the FBI. …