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Negroponte Leaves Intelligence Post

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Negroponte Leaves Intelligence Post

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Negroponte Leaves Intelligence Post

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LUKE BURBANK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Luke Burbank.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick

Several big personnel moves for the Bush administration Today Harriet Meyers says she's leaving as White House Council, you'll remember her as the president's failed Supreme Court nominee.

BURBANK: Also leaving for another job, the director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, he'll become the chief deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Now Negroponte's been in the intelligence job since all the U.S. intelligence agencies were reorganized into one operation two years ago.

CHADWICK: Walter Pincus covers national security for the Washington Post, he joins us now from the paper Walter, why this change now?

Mr. WALTER PINCUS (Washington Post): Well I think it's been a kind of game of musical chairs, and you have people coming and going. And I think with the promise of a new strategy for Iraq, the White House decided to fill in the blanks. And Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, has gone without a deputy for months and had tried to get John Negroponte over the summer. And they have come up with a retired vice admiral, Mike McConnell, who used to run the National Security Agency He will be announced shortly, I think, as coming into replace Negroponte and then Negroponte is then free to go over to state.

CHADWICK: Your paper reports today, that less than three weeks ago, Mr. Negroponte met with editors and reporters at the Post, and he said then, that he planned to stay as director of National Intelligence until the end of the Bush administration, at least. So it sounds as though this was pretty sudden.

Mr. PINCUS: I have heard, sort of indirectly, from him, that all this came up while he was on Christmas vacation in Naples, Florida, and things suddenly sort of fell together.

CHADWICK: Even if every one respects admiral McConnell, he did run the National Security Agency during the Clinton administration Even if everyone likes him, what about the prospects of confirmation hearings for the job of director of national intelligence with the Democrats in charge?

Mr. PINCUS: I think what you're going to get is a lot of talk about the role of the DNI, and the legislation that set up the job was generated originally by the 911 Commission - it has been a work in progress since There has always been an argument, and a lot of the professionals made the argument before this happened, that this would be a new layer on top of the 16 agencies and it has been a kind of a bureaucratic - not quite a nightmare - but it hasn't gelled as quickly as the Congress thought it would This has been quite a job to try to organize everything, and John Negroponte built up a bureaucracy of some 1,500 people and the congress has not been happy about that. But from his point of view you really need that amount of people to keep track of what's going on with the 16 agencies and the 42 billion dollars.

CHADWICK: Walter, you said earlier, that people are changing around in different roles and a lot is in flux Does the change for Mr. Negroponte have anything to do with the fact that Robert Gates, the former CIA director, is now in charge of the Defense Department, which as you say, is the - really, also the principal intelligence gathering agency of the government.

Mr. PINCUS: In a funny way it's the principal gatherer of electronic and satellite intelligence The principal gatherer of human intelligence is still the CIA The major thing to point out, and it's an interesting point, is now you have at CIA, a former head of NSA - a general, General Michael Hayden - you will now have a former admiral in charge of the DNI. And going in as the new number three at the Pentagon, a new undersecretary role created by Don Rumsfeld, you will have a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a retired general named James Clapper And these three military men know each other extremely well. And with Gates, a civilian who formerly headed the CIA, I think you're going to have a much better team and a much more independent team than you've had before.

CHADWICK: Walter Pincus of the Washington Post Walter thank you.

Mr. PINCUS: You're welcome.

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