Tue, Jul 13, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Senators press Bush to choose new CIA chief before election

AP , Washington

US Senator Jay Rockefeller speaks on an NBC TV show on Sunday in Washington.

PHOTO: AFP

US President George W. Bush is facing pressure to nominate a new CIA director quickly after a Senate Intelligence Committee report revealed serious breakdowns in analysis and intelligence-gathering.

George Tenet left office on Sunday after resigning for personal reasons. That leaves Tenet's deputy, John McLaughlin, as acting director until a new appointment is made.

A Bush spokeswoman gave no indication on Sunday as to when a nomination was planned. The president will make a decision on a new CIA director in due course," spokeswoman Erin Healy said.

Appearing on Sunday television news shows, senators leading the intelligence committee urged Bush not to delay, saying the country couldn't wait until after the November election. Their comments came two days after the panel concluded that the CIA provided unfounded assessments of the threat posed by Iraq with supposed weapons of mass destruction.

"An acting director for the next six or seven months ... is not acceptable,'' said West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, the committee's top Democrat.

"I think that John McLaughlin is trying to make some changes, but making changes in the CIA after a 50-year history of Cold War operations and mentality is a very tough thing to bring about," he said. "We have to do a better job."

Without mentioning names, Rockefeller said there were four or five candidates who could get quick bipartisan support if Bush were to nominate them.

US senators disagreed over whether administration officials had pressured intelligence analysts to reach predetermined conclusions on the Iraq threat.

The White House's role will be examined in a second phase of the committee's investigation, which probably will not be finished until after the election.

Rockefeller said the administration should be held accountable for an undue interest in invading Iraq.

"In the meantime, we have created, therefore, the lowest standing of the United States in our history around the world; more people trained and being trained for probably a generation or so to come to hate us and to try and hurt us abroad and here in the homeland," he said.

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