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New U.S. Intelligence Chief Sworn In

Bush (right) with McConnell in Washington on February 20 (official site) WASHINGTON, February 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has attended the swearing-in of retired Admiral Mike McConnell as the country's second director of national intelligence.

The job was created two years ago at the urging of the independent panel that investigated the attacks of September 11, 2001, and recommended ways to prevent a recurrence.

Bush and McConnell made it clear on February 20 that they agree on one thing: the importance of recruiting intelligence agents who understand the languages and cultures of foreign groups that may threaten the United States.

At the swearing-in ceremony for McConnell at Bolling Air Force Base outside Washington, Bush praised McConnell's predecessor, John Negroponte, for his efforts to coordinate material from the 16 government intelligence organizations, including the Central Intelligence Agency.

The president said he's asked McConnell to continue that job.

"I've asked him to improve information sharing within the intelligence community and with officials at all levels of our government, so everyone responsible for the security of our communities has the intelligence they need to do their jobs," Bush said. "I've asked him to ensure that our intelligence agencies focus on bringing in more Americans with language skills and cultural awareness necessary to meet the threats of this new century."

McConnell agreed that the country's spy agencies need people with better language skills. And he pointed to previous practices that prevented information sharing between the CIA -- which is responsible for foreign intelligence -- and the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- responsible for domestic intelligence.

"The old policies have hampered some common-sense reforms, such as hiring first- and second-generation Americans who possess native language skills, cultural insights, and a keen understanding of the threats we face," McConnell said. "To meet these threats at home we need an intelligence community that effectively merges foreign and domestic intelligence, something that my generation was restricted from doing before the tragedy of 9/11."

McConnell has spent nearly 40 years as an intelligence officer, serving as the intelligence officer under then-General Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time. After that he was director of the National Security Agency, the country's super-secret cryptanalysis center. Since 1996 he has worked in private industry.

Negroponte, his predecessor, is a career diplomat. He is resigning as director of national intelligence to become deputy secretary of state, the second-ranking position at the State Department.

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