Clinton's CIA nominee gives up in disgust nominee quits

The surprise withdrawal of Anthony Lake, nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, is a large embarrassment for President Bill Clinton, another body-blow for the demoralised CIA but above all proof of how the campaign fund-raising row has bred a bitter partisanship that is poisoning politics and government.

On Monday the patience of the mild Mr Lake, for four years Mr Clinton's National Security Adviser, snapped with what he called a "political circus". Having refused every presidential entreaty to stick out his ordeal, he delivered a resignation letter declaring Washington "had gone haywire" and damning a system that "was nasty, brutish, but anything but short".

The White House said the grilling Mr Lake was subjected to before the Senate Intelligence Committee proved only that the confirmation process was "inexcusably flawed". But Richard Shelby, the Democrat-turned-Republican who chairs the committee, and led the inquisition, was unrepentant. The vetting process "should be rigorous," he said, and Mr Lake had not passed muster.

Few expected Mr Lake to throw in the towel now, after having put up with so much. Despite the sniping, he had majority support in the committee and almost certainly in the full Senate thereafter.

But new obstacles, notably press reports alleging the Democratic National Committee improperly lobbied the National Security Council and the CIA for favourable treatment for a Lebanese-American campaign donor, were threatening further delay, and Mr Lake decided he had been hung out to dry long enough.

He thus becomes the latest victim of the dispute over Democratic fund- raising for the 1996 campaign, into which the White House and the NSC are being sucked steadily deeper.

It is one reason for the delay in key ambassadorial appointments, notably to Paris and London, and for the new impasse in negotiations for a balanced budget.

But it has also long been clear the Republicans were determined to claim at least one scalp among Mr Clinton's second-term nominees, if only to prove they were masters on Capitol Hill and avenge themselves for past Republican nominees shot down by a Democratic Congress. And once the campaign- funds rumpus heated up, Mr Lake was always the most vulnerable link in the chain.

By Monday even Democrats were expressing astonishment that he knew nothing of FBI warnings last year to two NSC staffers that China might be seeking to suborn the US political process. If he could not keep abreast of such issues in the NSC, they argued, how could he claim the management skills to handle the country's far larger intelligence empire?

The biggest victim is again the CIA. Mr Clinton must move swiftly to find a replacement for Mr Lake, and the Intelligence Committee debacle probably increases the chances of George Tenet, acting director, who was once staff director for the committee and a senior NSC official, before moving to the number-two job at the CIA.

As a solid in-house choice, he could expect relatively speedy confirmation and for agency employees he would be a better-known quantity than other mooted candidates like Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney-general in the first Clinton administration, the former Georgia senator Sam Nunn, and Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Bosnia peace accords.

None however has Mr Lake's access and long intimacy with the President. And whoever survives ordeal by Senator Shelby will have the dubious distinction of being the CIA's fifth director in six years, a list which does not include two nominees who withdrew their nomination. The job turnover is a measure of the disarray of an agency celebrated not for its quiet successes, but for front-page failures like the Ames espionage case.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness