January 4, 2007

Chicago Tribune:

negroponte.jpgRetired Navy Vice Adm. John "Mike'' McConnell will replace John Negroponte as director of national intelligence, with a senior Bush administration official confirming today that "these moves are imminent.''

McConnell, who served as director of the secretive National Security Agency from 1992-96 under former President Bill Clinton, will become Bush's daily intelligence briefer and oversee the vast intelligence operations of the government.

Negroponte, a career foreign service officer and former ambassador, will become deputy secretary of state at a time when the Bush administration is reassessing its strategy for the war in Iraq. The White House said today that Bush is getting closer to announcing a new strategy in Iraq, and spoke with the Iraqi prime minister by teleconference today.

[..]Harriet Miers, the president's general counsel, also announced toda
ymiers-harriet-thumb.jpg that she will resign on Jan. 31 after six years in the White House. The president had nominated Miers to a vacancy on the Supreme Court only to withdraw his nominee in the face of mounting criticism from senators for the competence of his longtime friend from Texas.

Miers' resignation is a matter of personal timing, according to the White House.

"She's been here six years. It's hard duty,'' Snow said. "She has decided that it's time to move on.''

The shuffling of the director of national intelligence is part of a carefully calculated move by the president to bolster both intelligence and diplomatic operations.

Yet some are expressing dismay with the shuffling of Negroponte early into a reorganization of the intelligence community. Read on...

USA Today: McConnell played big role in outsourcing intelligence. Of course. That sounds exactly like the kind of person Bush would nominate to coordinate domestic intelligence. McConnell has been working for Booz Allen Hamilton since 1996.

mcconnell-mug.jpgLast year, Negroponte started an audit of the number of private contractors used by all 16 intelligence agencies. That count was started because of concerns about how outsourcing affected intelligence, and it is continuing, says Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The CIA also began a study last September to determine whether contractors were hurting the agency's work by luring away CIA officers with higher salaries. The CIA did not return a call Thursday seeking an update on that study.

Booz Allen is a "huge" supplier of intelligence contracting, Kolton said. Contract details are classified.

Ralph Shrader, Booz Allen Hamilton's chairman and CEO, says McConnell's experience as NSA director and a private contractor make him a good choice. McConnell "will work very hard to do the right thing," Shrader says.

"He's someone who can solicit lots of opinions, collect them all up, and produce something that takes the needs of the entire country into consideration," Shrader says. "He's very hands-on."

Booz Allen has received at least $50 million in Pentagon contracts since November 2005, records show. Some involve remnants of the Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness" program. Congress killed the program in 2003 amid concerns it would invade the privacy of ordinary Americans.

The $63 million contract signed with Booz Allen in 2002 called for the firm to develop a single system to collect and search through huge databases of government, personal and business records for signs of terrorist activities. McConnell signed that contract on Booz Allen's behalf.

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