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Nominee for Top US Intelligence Job Pledges Not to Misuse Agency's Data

President Bush's nominee to be Director of National Intelligence, retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, says if confirmed he would focus on preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. McConnell made his comments at a Senate confirmation hearing, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell told the Senate Intelligence Committee that if he is confirmed he would work to protect the United States from a terrorist attack. "Not many years ago, the Intelligence Community focused almost exclusively on foreign threats outside our borders. What is new is the need to focus on these threats inside our borders. We must be effective in collecting and processing information to protect Americans from terrorism and to do so consistent with our constitution, our laws and our values to respect the rights and privacy of our citizens," he said.

Majority Democrats on the committee expressed frustration with past actions by the Bush administration to withhold classified information from the committee, making it difficult for the panel to carry out its oversight duties.

McConnell responded that he would share information with the committee. "I understand the responsibilities of Congress, and my philosophy is to provide the information you need for your oversight responsibilities," he said.

Democrats also expressed concerns about the Bush administration misusing intelligence for political ends. Critics have accused the administration of shaping intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq in 2003.

In response to questioning from Senator Ron Wydon, an Oregon Democrat, McConnell assured the committee he would not allow that to happen;

MCCONNELL: If I was aware that anyone was using information inappropriately, I would make that known to whomever was using that information inappropriately.
WYDEN: You would tell the president, and this committee?
MCCONNELL: I would tell all those responsible for this process what the situation was, and in the role of this committee for oversight, you would be part of that process to be informed.

McConnell served as director of the National Security Agency in the 1990's, and for the past decade worked for the U.S. defense contractor, Booz, Allen Hamilton, Incorporated.

McConnell is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate in the coming weeks. He would succeed John Negroponte, who was the first national director of intelligence and who was nominated by President Bush to become deputy secretary of state.