John Negroponte, President Bush’s choice to become the first director of national intelligence, faces his confirmation hearings today. Thanks to Donald Rumsfeld, his new job could be compromised before he even takes office.
Studies, investigations and commissions looking at the 9/11 attacks and the “dead wrong” information about WMD in Iraq all discovered the same thing: a serious lack of coordination between intelligence agencies. However, Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department, which wants to keep its control of 80 percent of the estimated $40 billion spent on intelligence in the U.S., is already trying to pull the rug out from under the new director of national intelligence. (The most recent study into intel failures even warned Negroponte that the Defense Department would try to “run around — or over” him.)
a) Donald Rumsfeld fought against the very creation of the position. Mr. Rumsfeld told the 9/11 Commission an intelligence czar would do the nation “a great disservice” by creating reliance on a single, centralized source of information.
b) Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported the Pentagon has been secretly operating a clandestine espionage branch for the past two years after reinterpreting U.S. law to place more power directly in the hands of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The group, called the Strategic Support Branch, was “designed to operate without detection and under the defense secretary’s direct control.” And not only did the group operate outside the public view, Rumsfeld hid it from Congress and did not coordinate it with the CIA.
c) Last week, Rumsfeld threw another wrench in the works by giving Undersecretary for Defense Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone — who has limited experience in the world of intelligence — amplified power over Pentagon intelligence operations. One senior intelligence official warned that Cambone “would be like a mini-DNI.” Officials worry this “could allow Cambone to interfere with the new intelligence chief by, for example, limiting the information he gets from the Pentagon.”