John Negroponte

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John Dimitri Negroponte (born July 21, 1939 in the United Kingdom) is a Greek-American career diplomat. He is currently serving as the United States Deputy Secretary of State. Prior to serving in this capacity, he was the first ever Director of National Intelligence.

Negroponte served in the United States Foreign Service, from 1960 to 1997. He had various tours of duty as a United States ambassador, including a three-year ambassadorship to the Philippines, from 1993 to 1996. He subsequently served as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 2001 to 2004, and was ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005.

Background

Negroponte was born in London to Dimitri John and Catherine Coumantaros Negroponte. His father was a Greek shipping magnate. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1956, and Yale University in 1960.

Negroponte later served at eight different Foreign Service posts in Asia, Europe and Latin America; and he also held important positions at the State Department and the White House. In 1981, he became the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. From 1985 to 1987, Negroponte held the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Subsequently, he served as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, from 1987 to 1989; Ambassador to Mexico, from 1989 to 1993; and Ambassador to the Philippines from 1993 to 1996. As Deputy National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, he was involved in the campaign to remove from power General Manuel Noriega in Panama. From 1997 until his appointment as ambassador to the UN, Negroponte was an executive with McGraw-Hill.

Negroponte speaks five languages (English, French, Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese). He is the elder brother of Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab and of the One Laptop per Child project. His brother Michel Negroponte is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, and his other brother, George Negroponte, is an artist. Negroponte and his wife, the former Diana Mary Villiers, have five adopted children: Marina, Alejandra, John, George and Sophia. They were married on December 14 1976.

Ambassador to Honduras (1981 - 1985)

From 1981 to 1985, Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. During this time, military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million a year, and the US began to maintain a significant military presence there, with the goal of providing a bulwark against the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which had overthrown the Somoza government and then created a state with close ties to both Cuba and the Soviet Union.

The previous U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Jack Binns (who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter) made numerous complaints about human rights abuses by the Honduran military under the government of Policarpo Paz García. Following the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, Binns was replaced by Negroponte, who has denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing by Honduran military forces.

In 1995, The Baltimore Sun published an extensive investigation of U.S. activities in Honduras. Speaking of Negroponte and other senior U.S. officials, an ex-Honduran congressman, Efraín Díaz, was quoted as saying:

Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD7q5R3_c5Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP7BNrpjINM

Substantial evidence subsequently emerged to support the contention that Negroponte was aware that serious violations of human rights were carried out by the Honduran government, but despite this did not recommend ending U.S. military aid to the country. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, on September 14, 2001, as reported in the Congressional Record, aired his suspicions on the occasion of Negroponte's nomination to the position of UN ambassador:

Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about government perpetrated human rights abuses than he chose to share with the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual State Department Human Rights reports.[1]

Among other evidence, Dodd cited a cable sent by Negroponte, in 1985, that made it clear that Negroponte was aware of the threat of "future human rights abuses" by "secret operating cells" left over by General Gustavo Álvarez Martinez, the chief of the Honduran armed forces, after he was forcibly removed from his post by fellow military commanders in 1984.

In April 2005, as the Senate confirmation hearings for the National Intelligence post took place, hundreds of documents were released by the State Department in response to a FOIA request by The Washington Post. The documents, cables that Negroponte sent to Washington while serving as ambassador to Honduras, indicated that he played a more active role than previously known in managing US efforts against the leftist Sandinistas. According to the Post, the image of Negroponte that emerges from the cables is that of an

exceptionally energetic, action-oriented ambassador whose anti-communist convictions led him to play down human rights abuses in Honduras, the most reliable U.S. ally in the region. There is little in the documents the State Department has released so far to support his assertion that he used "quiet diplomacy" to persuade the Honduran authorities to investigate the most egregious violations, including the mysterious disappearance of dozens of government opponents.[2]

The New York Times wrote that the documents revealed

a tough cold warrior who enthusiastically carried out President Ronald Reagan's strategy. They show he sent admiring reports to Washington about the Honduran military chief, who was blamed for human rights violations, warned that peace talks with the Nicaraguan regime might be a dangerous "Trojan horse" and pleaded with officials in Washington to impose greater secrecy on the Honduran role in aiding the contras.
The cables show that Mr. Negroponte worked closely with William J. Casey, then director of central intelligence, on the Reagan administration's anti-Communist offensive in Central America. He helped word a secret 1983 presidential "finding" authorizing support for the Contras, as the Nicaraguan rebels were known, and met regularly with Honduran military officials to win and retain their backing for the covert action.[3]

Both papers based their stories on cables obtained by a Post FOIA request. George Washington University's National Security Archive writes of

dozens of cables in which the Ambassador sought to undermine regional peace efforts such as the Contadora initiative that ultimately won Costa Rican president Oscar Arias a Nobel Prize, as well as multiple reports of meetings and conversations with Honduran military officers who were instrumental in providing logistical support and infrastructure for CIA covert operations in support of the contras against Nicaragua -"our special project" as Negroponte refers to the contra war in the cable traffic.[4]

During Negroponte's tour as US Ambassador to Mexico (1989-1993), he officiated at the block-long, fortified embassy and directed, among other things, U.S. intelligence services to assist the war against the Zapatista rebels of Chiapas.

Ambassador to the UN (2001 - 2004)

President George W. Bush appointed Negroponte to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in February, 2001, and after substantial opposition from Senate Democrats the nomination was ratified by the Senate on September 15 2001, four days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. According to CBS News,

At the United Nations, Negroponte, 64, was instrumental in winning unanimous approval of a Security Council resolution that demanded Saddam Hussein comply with U.N. mandates to disarm.[5]

Ambassador to Iraq (2004 - 2005)

On April 19, 2004, Negroponte was nominated by U.S. President George W. Bush to be the United States Ambassador to Iraq after the 30 June handover of sovereignty. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 2004, by a vote of 95 to 3, and was officially sworn in on June 23, 2004 replacing L. Paul Bremer as the U.S.'s highest ranking American civilian in Iraq.

In the months Negroponte spent as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq he received plaudits, even from Bush administration critics such as Fred Kaplan, for his work tackling corruption in the U.S. administration in Iraq.

Director of National Intelligence (2005 - 2007)

On February 17, 2005, President George W. Bush named Negroponte as the first Director of National Intelligence, (DNI), a cabinet-level position charged with coordinating the nation’s Intelligence Community [1]. On April 21, 2005, Negroponte was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 2 in the Senate, and subsequently sworn into the office that was called “substantially stronger” than its predecessor position, the Director of Central Intelligence [2]. Part of its power stemmed from the ability to “determine” budgets, prompting President Bush to remark, “That’s why John Negroponte is going to have a lot of influence. He will set the budgets.” [3] The budget of the Intelligence Community is estimated at $40 billion. [4]

Reaction to Negroponte’s nomination was, according to Newsweek, “overwhelmingly positive” because he had “earned the respect of many intel professionals since those early days of the Reagan counterinsurgency.” [5] The Times noted, “if anyone can bring a semblance of unity to America’s bewildering network of competing spy agencies, it is John Negroponte.” [6]

Congressional reaction was also positive. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), then-vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “I think that Ambassador Negroponte is a very sound choice. Ambassador Negroponte has served bravely and with distinction in Iraq and at the United Nations during a time of turmoil and uncertainty. He brings a record of proven leadership and strong management.” Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), then-ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee noted, “John Negroponte is a smart choice for a very important job. He's a seasoned and skilled diplomat, who has served with distinction at the United Nations and in Iraq -- and he has the full confidence of the president.” [7]

According to John MacGaffin, the CIA’s former associate deputy director for clandestine operations, “This is a guy who plays hardball. He’s a man who understands the whole range of counterintelligence, intelligence and covert action. They’re all parts of foreign policy and protecting ourselves.” [8] "We’ve known for the last 40 years that what’s wrong [with intelligence] is that no one’s in charge,” one retired CIA official told Newsweek. “For once we have a chance to do something with someone truly in charge. Negroponte’s going to decide what the answer is.” [9]

As DNI, Negroponte, “embarked on an impressive array of reform efforts,” with “perhaps the most transformational work … [involving] the effort to retool the creaky electronic infrastructure of the intelligence community.” [10]

According to U.S. News & World Report, one of Negroponte’s first tests was on an overbudget satellite system. The $25 billion system, called the “Future Imagery Architecture,” was created as the “foundation for the next generation of America’s space-based surveillance efforts.” The reality was quite different, as it became, “a managerial nightmare – five years behind schedule and billions over budget. Poor quality control and technical problems raised questions about whether the system would ever work properly.” Negroponte “moved decisively” and jettisoned half the classified project. [11]

Negroponte also appointed “mission managers” – intelligence professionals focused on America’s hardest targets and most looming threats. The mission managers are focused on counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counterintelligenc], Iran, North Korea and Cuba and Venezuela. [12] According to John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI), the mission manager concept, “holds much promise for integrating analysis, collection and other intelligence activities.” [13]

It has also proven beneficial during potential crises. According to a senior intelligence official quoted in US News and World Report, “In the days after North Korea’s recent nuclear test, the DNI put mission manager and CIA veteran Joseph DeTrani at the center of the developing crisis. Along with issuing a twice-daily intelligence summary, DeTrani served as a ‘traffic cop,’ coordinating analysis, briefing the White House, and tasking spies on what to target.” [14]

In a November 2006 cover story in US News and World Report, it was noted that Negroponte and his office, “have made a promising start – and, remarkably, encountered an apparent willingness to embark on the necessary reforms.” [15] Progress made included the White House approval of more than 30 DNI recommendations on improving the flow of intelligence and terrorism data to state and local authorities; requiring intelligence agencies to accept each other’s clearance; “open[ing] up the analytic process to new ideas and new people” to prevent groupthink – and the creation of an analytic ombudsman; the establishment of an Open Source center, “designed to broaden the flow of ideas to analysts”; and more “red teams” to challenge conventional thinking. [16]

Furthermore, the President’s Daily Brief, the highly classified report given to the president each morning by Negroponte, once prepared solely by the Central Intelligence Agency, is now compiled from intelligence agencies across the government. “I believe what I can bring to the community is a sense of what our most important customer is interested in,” Negroponte told US News about briefing the president. [17]

In spite of his progress leading the Intelligence Community, though, there were rumors that Negroponte wanted to move back to the field in which he spent 37 years – the State Department and Foreign Service. [18] The rumors became official on January 5, 2007 when Negroponte announced his resignation as DNI and move to the State Department to serve as Deputy Secretary of State. [19]

Former DDCI John McLaughlin wrote after the resignation was announced, “Negroponte must be credited with bringing a reassuring and confident demeanor to a community that had been rocked by controversy.” [20]

According to Newsweek, “Under Negroponte, the intel czar's office was praised by both congressional and executive-branch officials for greatly improving—via its National Counterterrorism Center—the sharing among relevant agencies of intelligence reports about terror threats.” [21]

Awards received

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, World Affairs Council of America
  • Jit Trainor Award for Distinction in the Conduct of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy

References

  1. Marshall, Joshua Micah (2006-05-07). Big world, small world. Talking Points Memo blog. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  2. Nomination of John Negroponte. Congressional Record: (Senate) S9431-S9433 (2001-09-14). Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  3. Dobbs, Michael. "Papers Illustrate Negroponte's Contra Role", The Washington Post, 2005-04-12, p. A04. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  4. Shane, Scott. "Cables Show Central Negroponte Role in 80's Covert War Against Nicaragua", The New York Times, 2005-04-13, p. A14. Retrieved on 2006-07-21. (preview only)
  5. Kornbluh, Peter. "The Negroponte File: Negroponte's Chron File From Tenure in Honduras Posted", National Security Archive, 2005-04-12.
  6. "Bush Taps Negroponte For Iraq Post", CBS News, 2004-04-09. Retrieved on 2006-08-17.

External links

Favorable commentary

Criticism

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