View Full Version : Bush Appoints More Cronies to Foreign Intelligence Board

11-03-2005, 09:59 PM

In the Company of Friends

Bush may be besieged by charges of cronyism, but they don’t seem to have affected his picks for a panel assessing intelligence matters. Plus, Alito, the talkie.

By Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey
Updated: 6:45 p.m. ET Nov. 2, 2005

Nov. 2, 2005 - Controversy continues to rage over spying failures and the mishandling of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Last week it was the indictments in the CIA leak case. This week, it was the extraordinary secret session of the Senate, when Democrats pushed for a new round of inquiries into the misuse of intelligence on Saddam’s regime. So it’s all the more remarkable to see how the White House has just filled a committee overseeing intelligence issues.

President Bush last week appointed nine campaign contributors, including three longtime fund-raisers, to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a 16-member panel of individuals from the private sector who advise the president on the quality and effectiveness of U.S. intelligence efforts. After watching the fate of Michael Brown as head of FEMA and Harriet Miers as Supreme Court nominee, you might think the president would be wary about the appearance of cronyism—especially with a critical national-security issue such as intelligence. Instead, Bush reappointed William DeWitt, an Ohio businessman who has raised more than $300,000 for the president’s campaigns, for a third two-year term on the panel. Originally appointed in 2001, just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, DeWitt, who was also a top fund-raiser for Bush’s 2004 Inaugural committee, was a partner with Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Other appointees included former Commerce secretary Don Evans, a longtime Bush friend; Texas oilman Ray Hunt; Netscape founder Jim Barksdale, and former congressman and 9/11 Commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton. Like DeWitt, Evans and Hunt have also been longtime Bush fund-raisers, raising more than $100,000 apiece for the president’s campaigns. Barksdale and five other appointees—incoming chairman Stephen Friedman, former Reagan adviser Arthur Culvahouse, retired admiral David Jeremiah, Martin Faga and John L. Morrison—were contributors to the president’s 2004 re-election effort. Friedman also served a year on the intelligence board under President Bill Clinton, who appointed chairmen with very different profiles from Bush's Pioneers: former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William Crowe, former Defense secretary Les Aspin, former House speaker Tom Foley and former GOP senator Warren Rudman. (Clinton did also appoint two donors who gave $100,000 apiece to the Democratic National Committee: New York investment banker Stan Shuman and Texas real estate magnate Richard Bloch.)

According to the White House, the intelligence advisory board offers the president “objective, expert advice” on the conduct of foreign intelligence, as well as any deficiencies in its collection, analysis and reporting. Created during the Eisenhower administration, the board has played a role in determining the structure of the intelligence community. Indeed, its members have been considered important presidential advisers, receiving the highest level security clearance and issuing classified reports and advice to the president.

Yet, as with many federal panels, membership on the board has also been doled out to top campaign contributors and supporters of the president—a move the White House defends since panelists are not required to have significant intelligence experience.

Friedman, a former top economic adviser to Bush during his first term, replaced Jim Langdon, a Washington lobbyist and Bush Pioneer who had been board chairman since February. Langdon himself replaced Brent Scowcroft, a close adviser to Bush’s father who was not reappointed to the panel after he publicly criticized Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

Last summer, Langdon became embroiled in ethical questions after The Washington Post reported that he had helped Akin Gump, the law firm where he works as an energy lobbyist, secure a contract with a Chinese firm seeking to buy Unocal, the California energy company. It’s unclear if Langdon resigned or was simply replaced. A board spokeswoman declined comment, and calls to Langdon’s office were not returned. Last week, Bush named 12 members to the panel, leaving four slots on the committee unfilled. Carol Blair, an administrative officer at the board, tells NEWSWEEK that the positions may remain empty. “The size and scope of the board is really up to the president,” she said. “We don’t know what will happen.”

Alito, the Talkie
One of Harriet Miers’s most difficult problems was that she said too little. Senators who met her privately complained they had little sense of who she was, or what she represented, because she rarely said anything beyond praising the president. Judging by the announcement of his nomination this week, Samuel Alito might face the opposite challenge.

When John Roberts was introduced to the nation as a Supreme Court nominee in July, he used all of 218 words to thank the president and his family, and express his sense of awe at the Supreme Court. “I always got a lump in my throat whenever I walked up those marble steps to argue a case before the court, and I don't think it was just from the nerves,” he said. Miers, in contrast, was positively expansive, delivering 390 words to thank the president, the Founding Fathers and her family.

But Alito was almost unstoppable, using three times as much oxygen—694 words in all—to thank the president, his family and to talk about his sense of awe at the Supreme Court. The biggest difference: Alito was the only one to try to define the job of a judge, and by extension outline his judicial philosophy. In doing so, Alito stressed that he thought judges should behave “with care and with restraint, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system.” But while concentrating on the conservative position of restraint (in contrast to what the movement sees as liberal “activism”), Alito also struck another note: fairness. He went out of his way to thank other judges “who have shown me with their examples what it means to be a fair and conscientious and temperate judge.”

That will be Alito’s challenge over the course of his confirmation—to express his commitment to conservative judicial positions while insisting on his own fairness. Yet his desire to explain his thinking may also draw him into an extended debate, which could pose new dangers.

Roberts, who spent much of his career as an oral advocate, succeeded by saying little and knowing when to defer to the senators who were acting as his judges. Alito has spent 15 years as a federal judge, and most federal judges defer to no one—at least in their own courtroom. Alito’s readiness to hold forth is a sure sign of his experience and confidence, especially when compared to Miers. But like the comments of his straight-talking 91-year-old mother, who told the Associated Press that her son was against abortion, his vocal responses could easily complicate his confirmation.

No Comment?
In briefing after briefing, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has dodged all questions about the CIA leak investigation by citing the “ongoing legal proceeding.”

That wasn’t what his boss said to reporters for Latin American media this week as he prepared to travel to the region. One Argentine reporter told the president that sources in Argentina’s government suggested they would ask Bush for more help in dealing with the IMF. Bush’s response: “Please don’t tell me that the government leaks secrets about conversations,” he began to joke. When the reporter insisted that he had his own sources, the president quipped “You do? OK, well, I’m not going to ask you who they are, of course.” In case anyone missed the reference, Bush helpfully explained: “Inside joke here, for my team.”

It’s not the first time the president has sounded so, well, insensitive before a foreign trip. Just before his visit to Denmark in July, Bush was interviewed by Danish TV. As a softball final question, the Danish reporter asked what he was looking forward to most about visiting Copenhagen. Bush struggled to answer, explaining that he wouldn’t have time to be a tourist, before ending with this: “I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep on the soil of a friend.”

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