Negroponte plans reform

Intelligence nominee pledges to senators that agents will abide by law

April 13, 2005|By Greg Miller | Greg Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - John D. Negroponte, President Bush's choice to become the nation's first intelligence director, pledged yesterday to spearhead sweeping reform of the U.S. spy community and to ensure that U.S. agents abide by "all applicable laws" in their pursuit of terrorist networks and other targets.

But Negroponte offered few specifics during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee and resisted some lawmakers' calls for a review of the CIA's policies in handling detainees and the controversial U.S. practice of turning terrorist suspects over to countries known to engage in torture.

Negroponte, who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, described his new mission in stark terms, saying that the United States faces a lengthy conflict with terrorist groups and can't win unless the nation's spy agencies rebound from the extensive failures that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the war in Iraq.

"In the past four years, our homeland has been attacked, and we have miscalculated the arsenal, if not the intent, of a dangerous adversary," Negroponte said. "Our intelligence effort has to generate better results - that's my mandate, plain and simple."

Yesterday's hearing was marked by pointed exchanges. Negroponte faced new pressure to defend his record against charges that he ignored human rights abuses while serving as a senior diplomat in Central America in the 1980s.

At other moments, Negroponte seemed somewhat unprepared for seemingly basic questions about his proposed job.

But in a display of his vaunted diplomatic skills, Negroponte emerged from the hearing with commitments of support from lawmakers in both parties, and appeared poised for Senate confirmation for his new post within the coming weeks.

Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described Negroponte as an "excellent choice" for what many believe will be one of the most challenging jobs in government.

As director of national intelligence, Negroponte would be charged with leading an often-fractious confederation of 15 intelligence agencies through the community's most significant overhaul in 50 years.

"The process of change begins with you," Roberts said. "Just by showing up for your first day of work you will step on quite a few toes."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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