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May 5, 2006
Who Comes After Goss?

While many still wonder what prompted the resignation of Porter Goss from his position as CIA Director, others have already started looking ahead to his eventual replacement. Goss has offered to remain in place while George Bush selects his successor, but the process will likely take place over the weekend. Sources within the White House have already warned the press to be ready for an announcement as early as Monday.

The AP reports late this evening that the search will likely narrow to a handful of possibilities: Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden; Frances Fragos Townsend; David Shedd, Negroponte's chief of staff; and Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte's deputy for intelligence collection. The common thread among four of the five are that they work for the current Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte. Only Townsend works outside of Negroponte's control, an interesting dynamic and one which may impact Congressional hearings down the road. The Washington Post's Dafna Linzner and Walter Pincus report in tomorrow's edition that Hayden and Mary Margaret Graham are under consideration, but Townsend did not make the short list at the White House:

White House officials said the president could nominate Goss's successor as early as Monday. Homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, who had long been rumored as a potential candidate, is not in the running, administration officials said.

Pincus has had some bad information out of the CIA before, so it's probably too early to write off Townsend just yet. In fact, this group of candidates has a number of issues that Bush will need to carefully vet before making his decision. He needs a qualified candidate that can get enough bipartisan support to get through Congress without turning the confirmation hearings into a dry run for impeachment proceedings.

General Michael Hayden

Normally, this would be the easy choice. Hayden has served with distinction in the Air Force, spending a good part of the last 35 years working in the intelligence field. He served as the NSA director under both Clinton and Bush, and now works as Negroponte's deputy. Hayden has credibility with members of both parties and the press. He knows the civilian and military intelligence communities better than any of the others on the short list and could hit the ground running for Bush at Langley.

If he's such a slam dunk, then why not just stop here? For one good reason: Hayden created and ran the NSA surveillance program that intercepts international communications without FISA warrants. Putting Hayden in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing would be akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. Democrats would jump at the chance to rip Hayden alive during nationally-televised hearings in a way that would make the Alito hearings look like a prayer breakfast. The worst-kept secret for the Democrats heading into this election is that they want to capture control of Congress in order to press impeachment proceedings against Bush. A Hayden confirmation hearing will become a fishing expedition for any tidbits they can discover for their later efforts.

Hayden will probably have to sit this one out. Had Goss lasted until after the elections, which appears to have been the original plan, Hayden could have easily been nominated. No wonder Bush looked unhappy today.

Mary Margaret Graham

Graham currently serves Negroponte as the DDNI for Collection. She has 27 years of experience in the field, and had last been at the CIA as the ADDO for Counterintelligence. That kind of experience would come in handy during an asymmetrical war on terrorist organizations, and her understanding of the CIA's needs to fight such a war effectively makes her an attractive candidate. Also, she would be the first woman appointed as CIA director, and Bush likes bold, historical appointments.

Graham, however, has two strikes against her. First, Negroponte selected her as one of his key staffers, and right now the intelligence committees have poor relations with Negroponte. They are likely to prefer a DCI with a good deal of independence from Negroponte. More importantly, Graham slipped last November and revealed the amount budgeted for national intelligence for 2005. Blowing classified information does not enhance one's career, and the SSCI will not be kind to her, let alone the full Senate.

David Shedd

If Congress feels leery about Graham, they'll positively shudder at Shedd. Placing Negroponte's chief lieutenant in Langley will clinch the DNI's domination over the main intelligence agency. Bush might like that, but given the hostility towards the DNI from the intel committees, Congress would not share that enthusiasm. Besides, Shedd may wind up answering a lot of questions about Valerie Plame, risking more hostile debates during the confirmation that this administration hardly needs at the moment. I'm pretty sure this is a pass.

Frances Townsend

Townsend shouldn't make the short list -- and according to Linzner and Pincus, she didn't -- but in some ways she presents less of an issue than any of the other candidates. I reposted Dafydd's excellent analysis of her handiwork in building the wall between intel and law-enforcement that created the conditions for 9/11. Townsend may well bring a fresh attitude into the role of DCI, but the track record remains very disconcerting. Her enthusiasm for the bad habits that left us unable to connect the dots before 9/11 represents everything this administration has tried to solve ever since about the intelligence community.

Yet, Townsend clearly has Bush's confidence. He promoted her to the key position of Homeland Security Advisor in the middle of his re-election campaign. Her work in the Clinton Department of Justice and her close association with Janet Reno would likely give her a clean sail from Democrats in the Senate. She has no apparent exposure on the NSA intercept program or the overseas detentions and renditions of captured terrorists. Like Graham, she could provide a historic appointment, giving even better reason for the Senate to bury the hatchet (and the ice pick, and the butcher knife, and ...) for the confirmation hearings.

While I think Hayden makes the best candidate by far among this group, I still think that Townsend or Graham will get the position. Goss just didn't last long enough to allow Hayden to step into the job.

UPDATE: The possibility exists for a dark horse to win the job. The Anchoress thinks Rudy Giuliani might make an interesting candidate. I don't think Giuliani would take it, not in the current configuration where he would have to report to Negroponte, and I don't think Giuliani has enough experience in intelligence to have the necessary credibility. He'd do great at the hearings, however.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 5, 2006 9:47 PM

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