Negroponte out because he was unwilling to cook intelligence (again) to the White House’s taste:
"The nomination of retired Vice Admiral John Michael “Mike” McConnell to be Director of National Intelligence is part of an effort by the Vice President to tighten the Administration’s grip on domestic intelligence and grease the wheels for a more aggressive stance towards Iran, current and former intelligence officials believe.
If confirmed, McConnell will replace current National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who was tapped Friday to become Deputy Secretary of State under Secretary Condoleezza Rice. According to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, Negroponte’s exit followed a lengthy internal administration battle between the Office of the Vice President and the two-year-old Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
According to officials close to both men, two issues surround Negroponte’s departure and McConnell’s nomination: a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iran – which the White House could use to buttress a case for military force – and pressure from the Vice President to augment domestic surveillance.
[b]Negroponte had resisted both efforts. Tensions soared after Negroponte made a public statement last year that countered the administration position that Iran was an immediate threat and that its alleged nuclear weapons program was in an advanced stage.
“The NIE on Iran is at issue,” said one former senior intelligence officer close to Negroponte.[/b]
The National Intelligence Estimate is an interagency report that synthesizes information across all intelligence agencies on a particular topic, providing an overall assessment and analysis. . .
Parts of an earlier Iran Intelligence Estimate were leaked to the Washington Post in 2005. These excerpts asserted that Iran was at least ten years away from possessing any significant nuclear enrichment capability and contrasted sharply with White House estimates, which had warned Iran could mount a full-scale attack in 3-5 years.
“The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House,” the Post’s Dafna Linzer reported. “Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal.”
Negroponte defended the published findings, attempting to push back against pressure from the Vice President’s office, and maintained his opposition to military action against Iran.
By March 2006, however, the Department of Defense – on orders from the Vice President’s Office – had created the Iranian Directorate, which was largely a recreation of the notorious Office of Special Plans. The Office of Special Plans operated in the build-up to the Iraq war and is believed by most experts to have been the conduit through which pre-Iraq war intelligence was allegedly manipulated, if not cooked outright. . . .
The creation of the Iran Directorate sharply undercut the Director of National Intelligence and what sources say were Negroponte’s efforts to collect the most comprehensive and accurate intelligence on Iran and provide it directly to the President. The Office was created in 2005 by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act to centralize information coming out of all 16 US intelligence agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
According to officials, Negroponte, while trying to work around interagency tensions, was not given the requisite authority to override pressure from Cheney’s office.
In October, Negroponte publicly cautioned against the use of force with regard to Iran, telling President Bush that because of “technical errors” in Iran’s nuclear program, the situation was not an emergency. . . .
The other key area of concern for the intelligence community in McConnell’s nomination is the Executive Branch’s attempt to expand domestic surveillance programs, especially those conducted by the National Security Agency.
[b]Current and former intelligence officials say that Negroponte and his staff were not comfortable with the level of domestic surveillance or the use of NSA wiretaps that were being pushed by the White House.
“[The office of the Vice President] could not get Negroponte to do anything with NSA and domestic surveillance,” said one former senior intelligence official. “McConnell worked with Cheney during the Gulf War.”[/b]