Washington, 7 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - President Bill Clinton's latest choice to run the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, says leadership of the CIA "means closing the door on the Cold War and embracing the challenges and opportunities of the new era."
"I would turn our gaze from the past, fix our attention on the future and target our investments on innovation," Tenet told the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday.
The full 100-member Senate must approve Tenet's nomination. His confirmation process is proceeding much faster and smoother than it did for Clinton's original nominee, Anthony Lake.
Lake was nominated shortly after Clinton was elected to his second term last November, after CIA director John Deutch decided to return to private life. Lake had been Clinton's National Security Council chairman. He angered several influential senators because Lake approved a policy that enabled Bosnian Muslims to obtain weapons from Iran without consulting Congress. The opposition to Lake forced him to request Clinton to withdraw his nomination.
Tenet's selection, however, was greeted much more warmly. He was already well-known in Congress from his service as chief of the Intelligence Committee staff from 1988-93. He served as the intelligence expert on the National Security Council under Lake before becoming deputy CIA director. Tenet has been acting CIA director since December.
Intelligence Committee chairman Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said before the hearing that, "at this point in time the nomination looks good." Shelby had led the opposition to Lake's nomination.
Tenet told the committee that if he is confirmed, he would insist that the CIA "draw more frequently on the expertise that resides in our country's private sector by sponsoring more scholars in residence and reaching out to specialists who can help us fill critical gaps."
The CIA is the nation's principal foreign intelligence-gathering and analysis service. Its annual budget is kept secret, but it is estimated at $30 billion.
The agency has been wracked by two major scandals in recent years involving senior agents who were found to have sold secrets to the Russians. The agency has had five directors in the past six years, and Tenet would be the third director to serve under Clinton.
Tenet told committee members he would keep them informed and would bar partisan politics in intelligence gathering. He said the CIA must shift from watching superpower enemies to guarding against threats that can as easily come from criminal groups and terrorists. Tenet said the agency must focus on terrorism, drug trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"You are not hiring me to simply observe and comment," Tenet said. "You will be hiring me to warn and protect."
"The problems at the top of the list must be those that pose serious danger to the physical security of the United States, our armed forces, and our citizens," Tenet said. He added that there was "zero room for competition or turf battles" in intelligence.