Clinton goes back to first choice for CIA chief

The White House yesterday laboured to extricate itself from the dbcle of another botched high-level nomination, following the sudden withdrawal of Michael Carns as director-to-be of the CIA amid a row over a former Filipino employee, and his hasty replacement by John Deutch, the deputy Defense Secretary.

Yesterday, 48 hours after the event, a stunned Washington was still trying to work out exactly what had gone wrong. Part of the story was clear: Mr Carns, a retired Air Force general, seems to have violated immigration and labour laws in his dealings with Elbino Runas, whom he had brought back with his family to the US after a tour of duty in the Philippines in 1987.

Five years later, the family and Mr Runas angrily parted company. Shortly after Gen Carns was nominated, unspecified anonymous allegations were made to the Senate Intelligence Committee. These allegations were "fairly nasty," said Leon Panetta, the White House chief of staff, yesterday. "This was going to be a nasty nominating process, and the general did not want to drag his family through it."

Even at the best of times, partisanship on Capitol Hill can turn a contested nomination into a poisonous, tabloid esque extravaganza. In Gen Carns's case, the risk was even greater. The Intelligence Committee happens to be chaired by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a 1996 Republican presidential candidate who could be expected to wring every drop of party advantage from proceedings.

Indeed, the bickering was on full display at the weekend, with President Bill Clinton lamenting how "even exemplary individuals like General Carns" are put off by the fear that "their records will be distorted, their achievements ignored, and their families maligned". Mr Specter hit back by accusing the President of again "seriously undermining US competence and credibility for all the world to see".

Another factor has been the very keenness of the White House to dispel Mr Clinton's reputation for dithering and delay. As in the past, the result has been shoddy background checks and rushed choices. Nor may the general be the last. Henry Foster's confirmation as the next US Surgeon-General is anything but certain, after revelations he had performed abortions and involuntary sterilisations of retarded women during a 36-year medical career. Mr Foster had volunteered this information, but it was apparently brushed aside by White House aides.

One consolation now is that Mr Deutch seems immune from such trouble. Confirmed in his present job only a year ago, he has recently undergone the most intensive FBI investigation. He is also highly popular with both parties on Capitol Hill. Second, and most important, Mr Clinton may have got by the worst imaginable means the best possible man to head the CIA. Battered by the Aldrich Ames affair and still trying to define its role in the post-Cold War world, the US intelligence community is crying out for strong, creative leadership. With Mr Deutch, it should get it. The 56-year-old former provost of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has won wide plaudits for his aggressive, high-tech management style. But there is no concealing the awkward fact that Mr Deutch had been first choice for the CIA but turned it down. This time Mr Clinton prevailed - appealing to his sense of duty and promising to elevate the job to Cabinet rank.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - South East & East Anglia

£60500 - £65500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Technician

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want the opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Worker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Workers needed in the Hastin...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Worker - Car / Bike / Moped Drivers

£7 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: NEW branch opening soon in Worthing fol...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent