There are two stories out today claiming Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, is really wearing the pants in the Executive Branch's dealings with intelligence. The NYT has McConnell describing tremendous pressure from Congress, yet insisting he got no pressure from the White House.
In an interview in his office, Mr. McConnell insisted on Tuesday that he never felt direct pressure from the White House to reject the Democratic proposal, and that contrary to statements from senior Democrats he had never given a verbal commitment to their plan.
“My job is to speak truth to power,” he said.
And the LAT has McConnell's spokesperson claiming the same:
A spokesman for McConnell rejected assertions that he had changed his position or been used for political purposes by the White House. "The White House did not play any part in rejecting that bill," said Ross Feinstein, a McConnell spokesman. McConnell "made his own decisions. He was clear all along on what he needed in the bill."
In handling those negotiations, McConnell was thrust into a delicate position. By tradition, the nation's top intelligence official is supposed to be insulated from political pressure or from debates over policy. But at the same time, the director is appointed by the president and serves as his top intelligence aide.
"He is the president's senior intelligence advisor, not Congress' senior intelligence advisor," said Mark Lowenthal, a former top CIA official and intelligence historian. But, he added, "I don't think McConnell would ever allow himself to be put in the position of doing the bidding of the White House. It's just not who the guy is."
Both stories contradict the stories TPMM and others were getting from during the negotiations.
Given the contradiction, I couldn't help but remember the reports from negotiations on Bush's recent Executive Order on torture (including one from Mark Mazzetti, the author of today's NYT piece).
But it wouldn't be an abuse of power if Cheney's minions weren't involved, and they were apparently pushing to embrace torture (from Mazzetti) .
Some Bush administration officials, including members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, pushed for a more expansive interpretation of Geneva Convention language and for interrogation methods that the C.I.A. had not even requested.
Of course they did! Force CIA to continue waterboarding (though, FWIW, Mazzetti has several unnamed officials claiming that waterboarding is off the list), that's Dick Cheney's way. Now couple Mazzetti's comment with this one from DeYoung, and you'll see why I consider this Cheney's signing statement:
While Hayden did not get "everything [he] might have wanted" in the guidelines, the official said, they contained everything the CIA needed and "more than was asked for."
It seems to me Cheney won at least some of those bureaucratic battles,
On torture, Cheney intervened to make sure the CIA got more torture methods than they even asked for. Pretty much what happened on the domestic wiretap negotiations, someone intervened to make sure DNI got more expansive powers than they asked for.
You think the similarity is a coincidence?