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Senate Nears Vote to Confirm Negroponte as National Intelligence Director


John Negroponte
The U.S. Senate later Thursday is expected to confirm John Negroponte as the first director of national intelligence.

Congress created the position of director of national intelligence as part of a broader intelligence reform initiative aimed at preventing another terrorist attack like those which occurred on September 11, 2001.

The director will coordinate the gathering and sharing of intelligence by the nation's 15 spy agencies.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, says career diplomat John Negroponte is the right person for the job.

"Clearly, Ambassador Negroponte will face significant challenges," he said. "He is going to carry heavy burdens. But I am convinced, however, that he has the character, he has the expertise, and he has the leadership skills required to successfully meet these challenges and to shoulder these responsibilities."

Mr. Negroponte's most recent position was as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, where he served for nine months. Before his service in Baghdad, he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

He has also held ambassadorships in Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines.

Some Democrats are concerned by Ambassador Negroponte's tenure in Honduras, from 1981 to 1985, when human rights groups say he turned a blind eye to human rights abuses.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon opposes the nomination.

"I find it especially troubling that the Ambassador's perception of the human rights situation in Honduras differs so dramatically from that expressed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Inter-American Court, the Honduras Human Rights Commission, and others," he said.

But most Democrats, including the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, support the nomination, and are expected to help confirm Mr. Negroponte.

"If anybody can succeed in the position of DNI, director of national intelligence, an entirely new position in the United States government, one of the three or four toughest jobs in Washington, I would suggest, that person is Ambassador Negroponte," he said.

While Ambassador Negroponte's nomination is moving forward, confirmation proceedings for another of President Bush's nominees have been delayed.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week abruptly rescheduled a vote on the nomination of John Bolton to be United Nations ambassador until next month.

The move came after one Republican Senator whose vote was crucial to moving the nomination to the full Senate said he was not comfortable voting for Mr. Bolton after hearing concerns from Democrats that the nominee verbally abused subordinates at the State Department and lacked the temperament to be U.N. ambassador.

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