Lehman to Head CIA?

MSNBC – Lehman considered top prospect to head CIA

The Bush administration is seriously considering nominating John Lehman, businessman, former Navy secretary and current 9/11 commissioner, to replace George Tenet as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, NBC News has learned from multiple sources at the White House, the State Department and on Capitol Hill.

The nomination of Lehman, who is being viewed as the leading candidate, could come as soon as Thursday, in an attempt to deflect attention from a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the agency, a report expected to be highly critical. The official release of the report has been delayed because ranking Democratic member, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) has other commitments.

Lehman, who was known as a reformer during his Navy days but who is not popular at the CIA, would be acceptable to most Republicans on the Hill — in sharp contrast to Rep. Porter Goss, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who was roundly rejected by leaders of the committee when his name was leaked last week.

I remember Lehman from his days as Reagan’s SecNav, but don’t know enough to evaluate his prospects as a potential DCI. According to his 9-11 Commission bio, he’s got a Ph.D. from the University of Pennslvania (presumably in engineering or a related discipline, judging from his career path) and has written several books. From what I can tell at Amazon, they’re mostly on naval affairs. Aside from his service on the 9-11 Commission, it’s not obvious that he has any intelligence-specific experience.

Josh Marshall is unimpressed:

The folks in position to guide ‘reform’ are intent on accentuating the problems that led to the existing problems — principally, further politicization and an elevation of ideologues over intelligence professionals. In short, a more thoroughgoing ‘disciplining’ of the Agency by the present administration, step one of Cheneyization.

DCI is a political position, first and foremost. The ability to manage a large bureaucracy and budget aren’t something one necessarily gains working one’s way up the ladder of the intelligence community, nor is the ability to promote the IC’s agenda in the intergovernmental process.

It is rare indeed for a cabinet head to have come up through the ranks of the bureaucracy. We’ve had numerous Secretaries of Defense who have never served in the military; most served only briefly. Likewise, few Secretaries of State have ever been diplomats. The path to the FBI Directorship seldom (if ever?) involves a stint as a Special Agent. It’s not immediately clear to me why the DCI should be different.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anon says:

    I was at the Foreign Policy Association programme on June 30th and saw Lehman bash Bush. I think that might preclude him from the job. His words were not included in the linked transcript below, but I think it says a lot that he gave the two speakers such a warm and incinteful introduction.


  2. craig says:

    Because Kerry is unqualified to make a decision as important as that one.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lehman’s degree from Penn is in International Relations, and he also has a BA and MA in the same thing from Cambridge University (the one in England). Can’t judge everything by career path.

  4. Bryan says:

    First off, the last person I want to hear lecturing ANYBODY on bipartisanship is someone who insists on referring to the president as “Shrub.” Second, EVERY FREAKIN’ APPOINTED POST IN THE GOVERNMENT IS POLITICAL!!!!

    The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (surely a very important position, wouldn’t you think, Paul?) is a POLITICAL appointment. Ditto every cabinet secretary, including the secretaries of all the armed forces (like Rumsfeld), the national security adviser, etc.

    EVERY post (except perhaps the education secretary) is essential and important. And if John Kerry comes in in January, he’s more than welcome to bring in a new CIA chief.

    As far as that goes, I find it incredibly hypocritical that you keep questioning Bush’s ability to act across party lines when he kept George Tenet as CIA chief, and he was CLINTON’S appointee.

  5. Jem says:

    James rightly points out that these administrator positions (whether in the Cabinet or not, like the FBI Director, Chairman of the Fed, etc.) are inherantly political in nature due to their roles in the interagency process. In addition, it has always been the perogative of the executive to choose his team–with the advice and consent of the Senate, for the positions so designated.

    The only FBI Director I know of from recent times who had a history as an agent is Louis Freeh. The others have come from outside the agency. Most DCIs have come from outside the CIA as well (Casey was an old OSS guy and one or two of the others came from within, but most have been political appointees).