Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

The Long Dark Shodow of Little Scottie

Ha! Pony Blow is now the President’s Press Secretary, but you wouldn’t know it from the White House Press Briefing Page (at least as of this writing, 3:15PM CDT) where Scott McClellan’s is still in the banner.

It’s fitting, however, as Pony did not do anything besides introduce John Nunkillergroponte who told us how fabu-lous Michael Hayden is.

Helen was having none of it, notice, too, how she slipped in an extraodinary rendition question.

Q Why did you want Mr. Goss fired? And also, does the CIA send detainees to secret prisons, prisons abroad?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: I wouldn’t characterize Mr. Goss’s departure in that way, Helen. Porter had talked for some time about the possibility of leaving public service. I think that the President felt this was an opportune time. He saw Porter, and I think Porter also had talked about himself being a transitional leader, transitioning from the old setup prior to intelligence reform to the new one. And the President just felt that this was a good time to appoint new leadership to carry the agenda forward and consolidate the reforms that Mr. Goss had initiated.

Q How about the second part of my question? Do we send detainees to secret prisons abroad?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: I’m just not going to comment on that question.

Any problem with the fact that Don Rumsfeld could be considered the superior of active Air Force General Hayden?

Q Mr. Ambassador, were you surprised by the level of concern that was expressed over the weekend about the fact that it will be a military man leading a civilian spy agency?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I think the most important thing is the qualifications of the individual who is going to be filling that job, and I think that Mike has both they’re breadth and depth of qualifications required for the position.


Q One of the perceptions and I think some of the concerns from the Hill is because he wears a uniform and it is a time when it is perceived that the Pentagon and Don Rumsfeld is trying to take on more of the intelligence roles — that’s what makes people on the Hill uncomfortable. Can you talk about the role of Mr. Rumsfeld and taking on more of the intelligence role, and because of that, having someone in uniform?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Sure. First of all, just one other point on Mike’s independence.


As far as this concern that’s been expressed about the military or the Pentagon taking over intelligence, I think there’s a lot of unfounded concerns there. The Director of National Intelligence is responsible for formulating the national intelligence budget. We’re responsible for laying out the priorities for intelligence collections and analysis, and we’re also responsible for a lot of the tasking related to the collection of national intelligence.

So I don’t think this concern is well-founded. Obviously, we have to work together with the military. The watch word for intelligence reform, after all, is integration, and that means integration of all of the elements of our government that work on intelligence. And we’re also in a war. So it really stands to reason that we do have to work very closely with the Pentagon and with the Armed Services in our intelligence activities, and we do precisely that.

What about Hayden’s boffo warrantless-spying scam?

Q Mr. Ambassador, going forward, you’re going to, on the Hill, get questions even from Republicans like Arlen Specter on the domestic spying program, or, I should say, General Hayden will. How do you guys plan to prepare to move forward on that? AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t call it domestic spying. I mean, this is about international terrorism, and telephone calls between people thought to be working for international terrorism and people here in the United States. So that would be my first point.


Q There is a possibility that the Senate Judiciary Committee might call General Hayden before it to testify about the warrantless wiretaps. Would he be able to do that, number one? And number two, could you lay to rest for us the question of whether we are conducting warrantless wiretaps on purely domestic calls?

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Well, on the second question, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely not. On the first question, I believe that this is a question of whom he ought to appear before in the process of confirmation, and my understanding is that the Senate Intelligence Committee would have the lead responsibility on that.

And I forgot, David, to answer you question about my deputy. We just haven’t broached that issue yet. So I haven’t — haven’t picked anybody, and I’m just holding back for the moment on that one.

Thank you, thank you very much.