Retired Admiral Sworn In As Director of Intelligence

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Retired Vice Adm. John M. McConnell, sworn in yesterday as the second director of national intelligence, said new technologies and capabilities are needed to collect and analyze intelligence "because today's threats move at increasing speeds."

"The time needed to develop a terrorist plot, communicate it around the globe and put it into motion has been drastically reduced," he told the audience of 300 at his swearing-in ceremony, which included President Bush and the leaders of the nation's intelligence agencies. "The timeline is no longer a calendar -- it is a watch."

McConnell becomes the president's chief intelligence adviser and manager of the 16 agencies and about 100,000 people making up the U.S. intelligence community.

Bush described McConnell's job "one of the most difficult and important positions in our government in this time of war -- and we are a nation at war." And although the president and his advisers have been criticized for ignoring prewar intelligence about the dangers in Iraq, Bush said yesterday: "He'll find that I value the intelligence product. . . . He's going to find that the intelligence product is an important part of my strategic thought."

Bush also paid tribute to McConnell's predecessor, Ambassador John D. Negroponte, who has moved back to the State Department as deputy secretary, saying he served with "talent and distinction." Nevertheless, Bush said that many elements of improving the intelligence community remain, including information sharing and the hiring of employees with the right language and cultural skills. McConnell repeated yesterday a plan he disclosed to Congress at his confirmation hearing: that he will change security rules to make it easier for intelligence agencies to hire first- and second-generation Arabic-speaking Americans for very sensitive jobs.

Although it was not mentioned yesterday, another of McConnell's highest priorities will be in proposing a deputy DNI, a position that has been vacant since Gen. Michael V. Hayden moved to the CIA last year. He told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that his preference would be someone from within the community on the civilian side who is working on terrorism-related issues.

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