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CLINTON NAMES 2ND CHOICE FOR CIA : NOMINATION OF ACTING DIRECTOR AIMS TO END INTELLIGENCE TURMOIL.

Byline: Tim Weiner The New York Times

Moving to end another political crisis for the nation's intelligence agencies, President Clinton on Wednesday chose George J. Tenet, a son of Greek immigrants who has made his name serving Washington's espionage overseers, as his new nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Tenet, 44, has served as the deputy director of central intelligence since July 1995 and the acting director since December. He would be the 18th chief in the CIA's 50-year history - and the fifth in six years.

In choosing Tenet, whose confirmation by the Senate appears likely, Clinton sought to end the turmoil at the top of U.S. intelligence and what he had called a ``cycle of political destruction'' that he said brought down his last nominee for the job, Anthony Lake.

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said Wednesday that they thought Tenet would likely be confirmed in April, after the Senate reconvenes from a two-week spring recess.

Sitting in a wheelchair at the White House, the president said Tenet had strong ties to Congress from his days as staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1989 through 1992, a record of serving Clinton as director of intelligence programs at the National Security Council in 1993 and 1994, and support inside the halls of the CIA from his tenure as second in command.

That is an unusual combination, intelligence officials said Wednesday, even though Tenet's career has mostly been as an aide to senators and spy chiefs and not as a wielder of power and authority himself.

``He knows that I must have the unvarnished truth,'' Clinton said.

Tenet, in turn, said the nomination was ``a bittersweet moment for me: I had hoped to serve with my good friend Tony Lake, as his deputy.'' But, with the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee raising questions about his fitness for the office, Lake withdrew his nomination Monday. He told the president that he was sick of being ``a dancing bear in a political circus.''

Lake bowed out after a twice-postponed and never-completed three-day confirmation hearing in which Republicans on the Intelligence Committee questioned his integrity, his politics and his tough-mindedness. His willingness to continue was also eroded by senators' questions, news reports, and internal government investigations.

Those inquiries called into doubt Lake's management of the 151-member NSC staff - and how well he might run the 80,000 or so intelligence officers and analysts who would be under his command at the CIA and a dozen other intelligence agencies.

Lake withdrew with a sad and angry letter, saying, ``Washington has gone haywire.'' But his withdrawal was the second failed nomination of a director of central intelligence for Clinton, who has now named five men to the post in little more than four years. And it has left the nation's intelligence agencies searching for leadership as they try to plot a course from the Cold War to the 21st century.

The withdrawal gave Tenet the nomination almost by default, several government and intelligence officials said Wednesday. He was in place as acting director, a post for which the Senate confirmed him in 1995. He was acceptable to Senate Republicans as a former aide to John Heinz, the late Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and as the director of the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee staff. And Tenet has a record of loyally serving Clinton and working closely with other deputies at the Pentagon and the Justice Department.

``You can't have a ship without a captain,'' Clinton said Wednesday. ``I didn't see any point in waiting.''

Tenet, in turn, said there was ``no room for partisanship in the conduct of our intelligence community.'' He pledged to ``always be straight and tell you the facts as we know them.''

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PHOTO George J. Tenet

Has ties to president, Congress
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 20, 1997
Words:640
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