* meanwhile, here's larisa:
Officials believe White House chose new Intelligence chief in effort to darken Iran Intelligence Estimate, broaden domestic surveillance
The nomination of retired Vice Admiral John Michael "Mike" McConnell to be Director of National Intelligence is part of an effort by the Vice President to tighten the Administration’s grip on domestic intelligence and grease the wheels for a more aggressive stance towards Iran, current and former intelligence officials believe.
According to officials close to both men, two issues surround Negroponte’s departure and McConnell’s nomination: a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iran – which the White House could use to buttress a case for military force – and pressure from the Vice President to augment domestic surveillance.
Negroponte had resisted both efforts. Tensions soared after Negroponte made a public statement last year that countered the administration position that Iran was an immediate threat and that its alleged nuclear weapons program was in an advanced stage.
“The NIE on Iran is at issue,” said one former senior intelligence officer close to Negroponte.
Parts of an earlier Iran Intelligence Estimate were leaked to the Washington Post in 2005. These excerpts asserted that Iran was at least ten years away from possessing any significant nuclear enrichment capability and contrasted sharply with White House estimates, which had warned Iran could mount a full-scale attack in 3-5 years.
Negroponte defended the published findings, attempting to push back against pressure from the Vice President’s office, and maintained his opposition to military action against Iran.
By March 2006, however, the Department of Defense – on orders from the Vice President’s Office – had created the Iranian Directorate, which was largely a recreation of the notorious Office of Special Plans. The Office of Special Plans operated in the build-up to the Iraq war and is believed by most experts to have been the conduit through which pre-Iraq war intelligence was allegedly manipulated, if not cooked outright.
The creation of the Iran Directorate sharply undercut the Director of National Intelligence and what sources say were Negroponte’s efforts to collect the most comprehensive and accurate intelligence on Iran and provide it directly to the President.
In addition to his work for Booz Allen, in 2004 McConnell also joined the board of directors of security firm CompuDyne, which hopes to obtain more federal contracts in the area of “signals intelligence” – interception and surveillance, in common parlance – an area which is well known as being McConnell’s specialty
* meanwhile, here's Clemons:
"But Cheney's followers populate the entire national security bureaucracy. He has allies, spies, and fellow travelers in State, Defense, the CIA, the NSA, the DNI, the DIA, all of the uniformed services, and throughout the government. They know his world view and don't need instructions on what to do or what he might think. They know it. They know he wants a war with Iran -- and his team of followers are doing what they can to move us in that direction.
There are many inside the Bush administration who do not want what Cheney and his followers prescribe -- but they are poorly organized and don't have the bureaucratic muscle to compete with Cheney's machine."