Intelligence chief resigns to work as Rice's deputy


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 10:41 p.m.

WASHINGTON — National Intelligence Director John Negroponte will resign to become deputy secretary of state, a government official said Wednesday night.

Negroponte took over in 2005 as the nation's first intelligence chief, responsible for overseeing all 16 U.S. spy agencies. He will return to his roots as a career diplomat to become the No. 2 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the official said.

The official said that the timing of Negroponte's departure was uncertain but that it was expected soon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because there has been no announcement of the move.

Negroponte, 67, is stepping down as President Bush develops a new strategy on Iraq.

He has been at the center of the Iraq debate since before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 — first as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., then as ambassador to Baghdad and as intelligence chief.

His move to the State Department must be confirmed by the Senate.

A spokesman for the Office of the National Intelligence Director declined to comment. White House spokesman Rob Saliterman also declined to comment on the report because it involves a personnel matter.

In an interview with C-SPAN last month, Negroponte indicated that he wanted to stay on through the Bush administration.

Yet his answer to the question — will he "stay with it for a while?" — didn't close the door to a new assignment. Since last summer, it has been said he was interested in the State Department spot.

"In my own mind at least, I visualize staying with it through the end of this administration and, then I think, probably that'll be about the right time to pack it in," he told C-SPAN.

Robert Zoellick resigned as Rice's deputy in July to take a position with Goldman Sachs. She is said to have approached several candidates for the plum assignment, going for months without any takers.

Negroponte's departure leaves a void in the newly created position of national intelligence director.

Congress established the post in late 2004 following the recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission. Yet, it has been at times a struggle for Negroponte and his staff to bring all 16 spy agencies together under one umbrella.

It was not immediately clear who would fill Negroponte's position. The job of his No. 2 has been vacant since Gen. Michael Hayden became the CIA director in May.

NBC News, which first reported Negroponte's resignation, said his likely successor is retired Adm. Mike McConnell, the director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. McConnell is now a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, a government contractor and consulting agency.

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