Pentagon Link To Spy Chief Pick Arouses Concern




 
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Pentagon Link To Spy Chief Pick Arouses Concern
 
January 5th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Pentagon Link To Spy Chief Pick Arouses Concern


Pentagon Link To Spy Chief Pick Arouses Concern
Wall Street Journal
January 5, 2007
Pg. 4

By Jay Solomon and Robert Block
WASHINGTON -- The nomination of a retired Navy admiral as the nation's chief spymaster stirred concerns about the expanding control of current and retired Pentagon officials over the U.S. intelligence community.
President Bush is expected to announce today the nomination of J. Michael McConnell as director of national intelligence, succeeding John Negroponte, who is moving to the No. 2 spot at the State Department. The White House also will nominate Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as United Nations ambassador, buttressing President Bush's foreign-policy team ahead of an expected change in Iraq-war strategy. The nominees will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Adm. McConnell's nomination will place current and retired military officials in charge of all of Washington's principal spy branches, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon controls 80% of the government's estimated $42 billion intelligence budget. Additionally, the U.S.'s overseas operations against al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups have resulted in the creation of the Defense Department's own intelligence czar and the deployment of military-intelligence assets in a number of global theaters.
Striking a Balance
Adm. McConnell's greatest challenge as director of national intelligence, say members of the intelligence community, will be to try to claim control of these Pentagon intelligence assets while striking a balance between the development of tactical and strategic intelligence.
Legislators and retired spies worry Adm. McConnell's career as a military-intelligence official could hold him hostage to the Pentagon's culture and mission. Among the lessons from the Iraq war, these officials say, was that the Bush administration underappreciated the strategic impact of removing Saddam Hussein and how countries like Iran and Syria might benefit.
"With so many military guys involved, you run the risk of the intelligence agencies giving the consumers what they want to hear," said Larry Johnson, who served as a senior counterterrorism official at both the State Department and CIA. "The result could be a focus on supporting wars, rather than longer-term analysis."
Adm. McConnell, 63 years old, serves as a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., focusing on the consulting firm's Pentagon accounts. A call to his office for comment wasn't returned.
Adm. McConnell served as the NSA's director from 1992 to 1996 and worked as the chief intelligence adviser to then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell during the first Gulf War. While picked to head the country's main eavesdropping agency by President Bush, Adm. McConnell was well-liked within the Clinton administration, say those he worked with, and isn't seen as a partisan player.
A Coordinated Effort
Mr. Negroponte's nearly two-year tenure as the first DNI was marked by a workmanlike approach toward integrating the U.S.'s 16 intelligence agencies under one command, say officials who worked with him. A chief task was to improve information sharing among these disparate agencies, particularly the CIA and Federal Bureau of Investigation. His office also pushed to develop more-nuanced and better-integrated intelligence assessments.
The success of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is widely attributed to the U.S. government's failure to connect the dots among various pieces of intelligence. An independent commission studying the Iraq war also criticized American spy agencies for tailoring intelligence assessments to underpin already-developed policy objectives.
In trying to streamline the intelligence-development process, Mr. Negroponte created a "Magnificent Seven" grouping of agencies that now form the heart of America's spy work. Members said they have detected better coordination among agencies as a result.
 


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