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January 4, 2007
A Strange Change

John Negroponte has given up his Cabinet-level position in order to work for Condoleezza Rice at State. Replacing him will be another retired military officer, which may revive some of the concerns regarding military control of the intelligence community:

John D. Negroponte, whom President Bush installed less than two years ago as the first director of national intelligence, will soon leave his post to become the State Department’s second-ranking official, administration officials said Wednesday.

Mr. Negroponte will fill a critical job that has been vacant for months, and he is expected to play a leading role in shaping policy in Iraq.

But his transfer is another blow to an intelligence community that has seen little continuity at the top since the departure of George J. Tenet in 2004 as director of central intelligence. ...

On paper, the director of national intelligence outranks the deputy secretary of state, raising questions about why the White House would seek — and why Mr. Negroponte would agree — to the shift.

Bush administration officials from two different agencies said Wednesday that the leading candidate for intelligence chief is J. Michael McConnell, a retired vice admiral who led the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. Admiral McConnell was head of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Gen. Colin L. Powell during the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991.

Negroponte will fill Robert Zoellick's slot at State, dealing with critical policy issues and serving as Rice's deputy. The position carries a high profile and arguably has more influence on policy formulation, but it still represents a step down and a move out of the Oval Office inner circle. The change reflects a possible loss of confidence in Negroponte, especially given his proximity to the President and the obvious opportunity to influence his decisions on policy on a whole range of issues.

Congress appears taken aback by the change. Susan Collins, a Republican who pushed hard for the 9/11 Commission recommendations that created the DNI post, expressed her disappointment at Negroponte's resignation. Jane Harman, who would have been the new House Intel chair had Nancy Pelosi not fumbled the assignment after the election, also objected, making the criticism bipartisan.

With the available information, it looks like Negroponte got shuffled downward as part of the review finishing up on Iraq and the war on terror. The quality of intelligence coming from Iraq has come under some fire over the last couple of years, and eventually that responsibility rests with Negroponte. Alternatively, it could be that Negroponte's experience in Iraq was necessary for Rice to push through Bush's new strategies for Iraq and the Middle East. Negroponte was the first American emissary to Iraq, and with the resignation of Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush may have wanted the most experienced hands focusing directly on Iraq.

It's a puzzlement, without a doubt. I don't recall any recent moves where a Cabinet officer resigned to take a deputy post for another Cabinet officer.

Get ready for more questions about Negroponte's replacement. Congress expressed some uneasiness when Bush nominated General Michael Hayden to head the CIA; they were reluctant to put a command officer in the military in charge of an agency that had mostly had civilian leadership. Part of the reason Congress shrugged off those concerns was that a civilian served as DNI. Now that Bush wants to put a retired admiral with strong ties to the Pentagon's intel structure, that may come up again as a concern for lawmakers.

First, though, they will want to ask what led to Negroponte's resignation, a question that seems as though it would produce some interesting answers.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 4, 2007 5:01 AM

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» Negroponte Moving to Deputy State Deptartment Post from Outside The Beltway | OTB
John Negroponte, the National Intelligence Director, is going to move to the State Department as Condi Rice’s deputy. John D. Negroponte, whom President Bush installed less than two years ago as the first director of national intelligence, will s... [Read More]

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» Negroponte Leaves Intelligence Position to Go to State from The American Mind
John Negroponte leaving his position of Director of National Intelligence to go to the State Department is a sign we still haven’t gotten our intelligence act together. It’s musical chairs at a time when intelligence on places like Iran, Ir... [Read More]

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A Strange ChangeEd Morrissey John Negroponte has given up his Cabinet-level position in order to work for Condoleezza Rice at State. Replacing him will be another retired military officer, which may revive some of the concerns regarding military contro... [Read More]

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» Negroponte's Job Change from Sensible Mom
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» Negroponte's Job Change from Sensible Mom
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Tracked on January 4, 2007 4:15 PM

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