Intel Czar Pick Calls For Reform

John Negroponte 2005/2/17
John Negroponte, President Bush's choice as the first director of all U.S. intelligence activities, told senators Tuesday that reforming the various spy agencies will be a central focus of his new job.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Negroponte declined to specify what he will do about changes recommended by recent commissions that have been critical of U.S. intelligence-gathering, however. He said he is still studying their findings.

"Our intelligence effort has to generate better results," Negroponte, a veteran of the diplomatic establishment and most recently Bush's ambassador to Iraq, said in his prepared remarks. "That's my mandate, plain and simple."

"The focus of the Senate nomination hearing for Ambassador Negroponte to be national intelligence chief was 'how to avoid another 9/11'" said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk. "But Committee members took the opportunity during what was Negroponte's seventh set of confirmation hearings to cover almost two dozen issues including human intelligence, partisan analysis of information, the colossal failure of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) intelligence in Iraq to his time in Honduras."

Negroponte, whose approval by the committee and the full Senate are not in doubt, fended off Democratic suggestions that he may not be an impartial arbiter of intelligence. To make their point, Democrats turned to his record as ambassador to Honduras during the tumult in Latin American during the 1980s.

"My punch line is, I believe in calling things the way I see them, and I believe that the president deserves from his director of national intelligence and from the intelligence community unvarnished truth," Negroponte told the panel.

Negroponte told the senators that he will insist that all 15 intelligence agencies start working together and that he will have the authority to stop the feuding between the Pentagon, CIA and other agencies, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss.

Yet Negroponte also said he believes intelligence has limits.

"But even if we cannot know every fact or predict every threat, by working more closely and effectively as a team, we can be more specific about what we do not know, and that is critical," he said, later noting the need for a "single intelligence community that cooperates seamlessly."

Negroponte's comments directly addressed recent failures, in which the intelligence community overstated the threat posed by Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, was unable to prevent the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been repeatedly criticized for bureaucratic infighting.

"Charged with coordinating fifteen intelligence agencies with an estimated budget of $40 billion, the senators questioning Negroponte seemed to reflect the skepticism both parties have expressed about the new agency but appeared reassured by the tough assignments that Negroponte has handled in the past," said Falk.

"Negroponte's answers that the President deserves "unvarnished truth" came as welcome statements on the same day that three terror suspects' indictments revealed targeting of attacks in New York City after the 9/11 attacks," Falk added.