President Bush said Tuesday he has not decided whether he will nominate a new CIA director before the November election.
The agency’s current head, George Tenet, leaves his post on Sunday, the seven-year anniversary of his swearing in. Poised to take over as acting director is his deputy, John McLaughlin, 61.
Asked whether he planned to wait until after the election to name Tenet’s replacement, Bush said: “I haven’t made up my mind on the nomination process.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., is said to be the front-runner. Washington insiders have speculated for a month about who else may be in the running: Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage; former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga.; Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif.; former National Security Agency director, retired Adm. William O. Studeman; and perhaps McLaughlin.
Among factors the White House must weigh when deciding whom to name — and when — is whether a confirmation process before the election would draw attention to intelligence failures and how it would be perceived should an attack occur this summer with only an acting director in place.
Bush, who spoke during an Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister David Oddsson of Iceland, declined to comment about an upcoming report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is expected to be highly critical of the intelligence community’s assessments of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s weapons capability in the months preceding the war.
“I will wait for the report,” Bush said. “I will look at the whole report.”
Bush, however, added that Saddam Hussein harbored terrorists and was a threat to his people and the region.
“Saddam Hussein had the intent,” to use weapons of mass destruction, Bush said. “He had the capability.”