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Bush names Negroponte intelligence chief

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President Bush picks John Negroponte to be intelligence chief.

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Is John Negroponte the best choice for director of national intelligence?
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Thursday nominated John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as the first director of national intelligence.

Bush said that Negroponte would be his principal adviser on intelligence issues and would have authority over the budgets of the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Negroponte also will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence, information sharing between agencies and the establishment of common standards, Bush said.

"Vesting these in a single official who reports directly to me will make our intelligence efforts better coordinated, more efficient and more effective," Bush said.

"The director's responsibility is straightforward and demanding," he said. "If we're going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we must ensure that our intelligence agencies work as a single, unified enterprise."

Negroponte, 65, has been the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq since June.

He was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2001 to 2004. (Profile)

Bush also announced that he's chosen Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, director of the National Security Agency, as Negroponte's deputy.

The intelligence overhaul bill that Bush signed into law in December created the intelligence czar position. The legislation sought to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 panel, respectively, praised Negroponte as a "highly respected diplomat with a deep understanding of the world."

"His extraordinary knowledge of foreign policy and intelligence issues will serve him well in his new capacity," the two said in a written statement.

The job will be one of the the most powerful in the U.S. government. The Senate must confirm Negroponte, who called the post "the most challenging assignment I have undertaken in more than 40 years of government service."

Bush said that Negroponte's skill as a diplomat would help him negotiate the jockeying between the Pentagon, CIA and other agencies.

He said that those agencies' existing chains of command would remain in place.

CIA chief to report to Negroponte

Bush said the relationship between the White House and CIA would be vital.

"The CIA will retain its core of responsibilities for collecting human intelligence, analyzing intelligence from all sources and supporting American interests abroad at the direction of the president," Bush said.

CIA Director Porter Goss, who would report to Negroponte, called the men "excellent choices."

"The nominations of Ambassador Negroponte and Gen. Hayden are welcome news and a critical step in continuing to strengthen our intelligence community and to create even better coordinated working relationships and communications between the agencies," Goss said in a press release.

Some critics have said that the intelligence director's duties and authority have not been spelled out clearly.

Shortly before the announcement, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Congress does not want to handcuff the director.

"I think the fact that all of the lines aren't crossed and every decision isn't made about what powers the [director of national intelligence] has is an advantage for the [director] because a vacuum invites power. I think it is much more important that the [director] be able to come in, he or she, in order to fill that out according to their own instincts," Rockefeller said.

"If we had prescribed in Congress each of the relationships between the agencies, I think that would have been an enormous mistake and would have rendered this person more useless. This person can exercise power, and I think that's good."

Not first choice?

The uncertainties about the parameters of the position and its enormous responsibility apparently made the search for a candidate difficult.

Ex-CIA Director Robert Gates, who is now president of Texas A&M University, declined an offer to take the job.

"There seems to be a growing number of rumors in the media and around campus that I am leaving Texas A&M to become the new director of national intelligence ("Intelligence Czar") in Washington, D.C.," Gates wrote in a message posted on the school's Web site February 1.

"To put the rumors to rest, I was indeed asked to take the position, wrestled with perhaps the most difficult -- and close -- decision of my life, and last week declined the position."

Negroponte was a member of the U.S. foreign service from 1960 to 1997, serving in eight countries on three continents.

As U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, he was linked to controversies surrounding human rights violations there and in connection with the funding of contras in Nicaragua.

The Senate confirmed Negroponte as U.N. ambassador in September 2001 after a six-month delay, caused mostly by criticism of his record in Honduras, according to The Associated Press.

After facing questions on whether he consented to human rights abuses by a Honduran death squad, Negroponte testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he didn't believe abuses were part of a deliberate policy by that country's government, the AP reported.

"To this day, I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras," he said, according to the AP.

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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