John Michael McConnell is Cheney’s choice to replace John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence.
Perhaps McConnell’s most important backer in the upper reaches of the Bush administration is Vice President Dick Cheney, with whom he worked more than a decade ago when the veep was Defense secretary under the first President Bush. McConnell had been approached at least twice before by the administration to take a top job in the intelligence director’s office but turned it down, according to two former government officials. McConnell finally agreed to take the job after a direct, personal approach from Cheney, according to a former government official who talked to McConnell in the last day or two.
Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that Cheney’s man will be briefing the President each morning on the output of our intelligence agencies? I know it makes me feel loosy-goosy. Here’s some more stuff to make you feel peachy.
Still, some of McConnell’s longtime associations may cause him headaches during Senate confirmation hearings, especially with the Democrats taking over Congress. One such tie is with another former Navy admiral, John Poindexter, the Iran-contra figure who started the controversial “Total Information Awareness” program at the Pentagon in 2002. The international consultancy that McConnell has worked at for a decade as a senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, won contracts worth $63 million on the TIA “data-mining” program, which was later cancelled after congressional Democrats raised questions about invasion of privacy. McConnell will be named by week’s end to replace John Negroponte, who will move on to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy secretary of State, according to a White House official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. While his role in the TIA program is unlikely to derail McConnell’s nomination, spokespeople for some leading Democratic senators such as Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Ron Wyden of Oregon say it will be examined carefully.
McConnell was a key figure in making Booz Allen, along with Science Applications International Corp., the prime contractor on the project, according to officials in the intelligence community and at Booz Allen who would discuss contracts for data mining only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “I think Poindexter probably respected Mike and probably entrusted the TIA program to him as a result,” said a longtime associate of McConnell’s who worked at NSA with him.
I am really beginning to like this McConnell guy. How about you?