Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Intelligence Czar-A Bush League Selection

Intelligence Czar-A Bush League Selection

Recently, after being turned down by Robert Gates, Sam Nunn, and William Barr, George Bush settled for a poor fourth choice in selecting John Negroponte to be the new Director of Intelligence (DNI). Negroponte is currently our ambassador in Baghdad and, according to an US official quoted in the New York Times, has been looking for an excuse to leave Iraq.

It would be hard to find a person who was less qualified for this position. Negroponte has almost no intelligence experience. As our UN ambassador Negroponte was the point man for disseminating the totally false information about Iraq’s WMD program and its ties to terrorist organizations.

As the US ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte ignored reports about the systematic torture and killing of Honduran citizens by the Honduran army. He not only tolerated it but covered up its abuses. In a series of reports to Congress, Negroponte lied about the conditions in Honduras so that it would continue to receive aid from the US to support the attempted overthrow of the duly- elected government of Nicaragua.

The very first tenant of intelligence reporting is absolute objectivity and honesty. When I was a senior intelligence analyst, it was incumbent upon me to report to decision makers the unvarnished truth even if it directly contradicted programs or actions the administration wanted to support or take. As DNI, Negroponte will be responsible for giving the President his daily intelligence briefing. Will he have the character, the integrity, and the will to report to Bush intelligence that contradicts or undermines administration goals and objectives? If one looks at Negroponte’s record, it is not very reassuring. Given this administration’s penchant for distorting the truth to support its policies, it is perhaps understandable that Bush picked someone who appears to subscribe to the old adage:”Go along to get along”.

Even more disturbing, is the power the new DNI will have to order investigations of US citizens. Formerly, the law, to protect civil liberties, kept the CIA and the FBI completely separate. The CIA was responsible for foreign intelligence and operations and the FBI had a similar domestic responsibility. This law was enacted as result of serious abuses by the CIA which spied on US citizens who opposed the Viet Nam War. Under the intelligence reform legislation, the DNI will have control of both the CIA and the FBI. Unless the DNI has the integrity and guts to prevent it, the potential exists for serious abuses of our civil liberties. Again, given his record, it’s not clear that Negroponte would not knuckle under to White House pressure to violate our civil rights.