February 17, 2005
The Ostrich AmbassadorAfter dragging his feet for months, George W. Bush finally nominated a National Intelligence Director, a position created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Remember the 9/11 Commission? The body whose creation Mr. Bush opposed and whose investigation he thwarted at every turn? Yes, that one.
In nominating John Negroponte, Mr. Bush said, "John understands America’s global intelligence needs, because he spent the better part of his life in our Foreign Service, and is now serving with distinction in the sensitive post of our nation’s first ambassador to a free Iraq".
In other words, a career diplomat with extensive foreign service experience but no background in intelligence will become National Intelligence Director. Then again, he's a loyal company man and the right credentials are never high on this president's list of requirements (two words: Bernard Kerik).
If the name John Negroponte sounds familiar, that's because he's a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan Administration. While Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, he allegedly oversaw the illegal training and arming of Contra rebels inside Honduras for the purpose of overthrowing Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
Mr. Negroponte's tenure saw the intensification of atrocities by the infamous Honduran Secret Police and the Battalion 3-16 death squad. Jack Binns, his predecessor, made numerous complaints about their human rights abuses and said he fully briefed Mr. Negroponte about it. The atrocities were also condemned by international organizations and widely covered by local media [the Baltimore Sun later covered the story in a 1995 four-part investigative series by Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Gary Cohn].
In spite of all this, Mr. Negroponte denies to this day that atrocities were committed and if they were, he didn't know anything about it. His constant denials, even though he himself was charged with human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights, earned him the nickname "ostrich ambassador".
Now it seems the ostrich ambassador will become National Intelligence Director. I wonder what kind of creative intelligence gathering he will bury his head from this time?
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