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Bush Administration Makeover Continues; Spy Boss Moves To State Department January 5, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–President George W. Bush turned to a diplomat nearly two years ago when Congress created a national intelligence director to coordinate the work of the 16 U.S. spy agencies.

Now, he’s turning to an intelligence veteran for his replacement.

Bush planned to name a retired Navy vice admiral, former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell, to be his top intelligence official Friday, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision was not yet public.

Bush was to announce McConnell’s selection at a White House event at 9:50 a.m. EST.

The current spy chief, career diplomat John Negroponte, will move into the long-vacant job as top deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The moves come as part of the White House effort to chart a new direction on Iraq and reshape Bush’s national security strategy with two years left in his presidency.

Part of the new course appears to be a renovation of Bush’s intelligence and national security team. In addition to Negroponte’s shift, Defense Secretary Robert Gates took over the Pentagon last month and is expected to bring in retired Lt. Gen. James Clapper as his undersecretary for intelligence.

Bush will also nominate his ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to be the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, said another senior administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bush plans to announce his new strategy for the war in a speech that could come as early as the middle of next week. It had been expected before Christmas, but was delayed.

The administration denied that Negroponte’s move was a demotion. The senior administration official said Bush personally reached out to Negroponte to fill the opening for deputy secretary of state, which has been vacant since July. Bush also talked with McConnell about becoming intelligence chief, a position that oversees and coordinates the 16 U.S. spy agencies.

McConnell spent more than a quarter-century as an intelligence operations and security officer and caught the attention of then-defense secretary Dick Cheney and then-joint chiefs chairman Colin Powell during the first Persian Gulf War. He regularly briefed the two as an intelligence officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and is known as someone who can distill complicated information into coherent presentations, said Matthew Aid, a historian who studies the National Security Agency.

McConnell was tapped to lead U.S. eavesdropping efforts as director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996.

McConnell left the government and has worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a government contractor and consulting firm, for about a decade.

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