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Bush Nominates Negroponte To Intelligence Chief Position

By David Stout

and Mark Glassman

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

President Bush on Thursday nominated John D. Negroponte, the ambassador to Iraq and a diplomat with worldwide experience, to be the director of national intelligence, a new post intended to protect the United States from 21st century terrorist threats.

“Intelligence is our front line of defense,” Bush said in announcing the selection of Negroponte, who previously served as Ambassador to the United Nations and at eight diplomatic posts in Asia, Latin America and Europe. From 1987 to 1989, he was deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs.

Negroponte, 65, said he was honored to be picked for the job, which he called “no doubt the most challenging assignment” he has had in more than 40 years of government service.

The president also nominated Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden to be Negroponte’s deputy. The Air Force general is currently head of the National Security Agency, a huge intelligence-analyzing unit based at Fort Meade, Md.

If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte will oversee the country’s 15 intelligence agencies and exercise broad control over a multi-billion dollar intelligence budget. Confirmation would appear likely, since he has been confirmed previously as U.N. envoy and Iraq ambassador with little opposition.

“John’s nomination comes in an historic moment for our intelligence services,” Bush said in a ceremony at the White House.

Negroponte has been serving as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq since last summer, a tenure Bush called an “incalculable advantage for an intelligence chief.” Negroponte had re-established that position shortly before the transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in late June.

Creating the new position was one of the central recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that finished its work last summer. The intelligence community had been under fire since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for poor communication and organization, and the commission said it believed that centralizing control of the myriad intelligence agencies would create a more effective system.

In particular, the commission criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency for failing to share information and being unable to “connect the dots,” or piece together what in retrospect seemed to be a cornucopia of clues of the impending attacks.

The proposed position became politically charged last fall amid reports that the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld opposed placing too much control over Pentagon intelligence and budgetary matters in the hands of the new director.

Bush implicitly addressed those concerns Thursday, saying that Negroponte would make sure that “our military commanders continue to have quick access” to battlefield intelligence.

The president also said pointedly that “the director of the CIA will report to John.” Thus, the head of the CIA, now Porter J. Goss, will no longer be considered America’s top intelligence official.

Bush’s decision comes amid some criticism of a two-month delay since the position was created when he signed a bill revamping national intelligence on Dec. 17.