Lake’s campaign: CIA nominee seeks support at agency, Capitol
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Deep in CIA headquarters, an intelligence analyst bumped into Anthony Lake, the man nominated to head the agency. Extending a hand, the analyst noted that he had prepared a detailed memo on China. Lake not only remembered, he quoted from the memo.
The brief conversation, one of scores Lake has had with CIA employees in recent weeks, is part of his quiet but energetic campaign to court support _ inside the agency as well as on Capitol Hill _ as he prepares for a potentially bruising Senate confirmation hearing Feb. 25.
``He’s been spending every day out there at the agency getting briefed at all levels, just really trying to get to know the agency,″ said Nancy Soderberg, deputy assistant to the president for national security. ``He comes back just incredibly pumped from the quality of the people out there. He’s repeatedly said, `They’re the best analysts in the government.‴
Those remarks point to an argument Lake is underscoring in private meetings with CIA staffers and lawmakers: The CIA, though hobbled by some high-profile failures, is not a failed agency. It provides a vital service, Lake argues, at a time the United States faces not one monolithic foe but many security threats, from terrorism to weapons proliferation.
Lake reports to a windowless office on the third floor of CIA’s sprawling headquarters in leafy Langley, Va., outside Washington. He scans the Presidential Daily Brief, the classified daily intelligence report that goes to the White House, and pores over books on the history and makeup of U.S. intelligence. Then, with little entourage and no security guards, he makes the rounds of the intelligence bureaus.
As Clinton’s national security officer for the past four years, Lake was a leading ``customer″ of the raw information _ spy satellite photos, communications intercepts _ and analysis produced by the $30 billion U.S. intelligence apparatus. But he was not an insider, not a part of the community, and he’s trying to close that distance.
Lake also has shuttled to Capitol Hill for one-on-one meetings with each member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. According to White House officials and lawmakers, he has laid out the administration’s key intelligence priorities: supporting ongoing military operations, monitoring hostile nations and gathering information on weapons proliferation, terrorism and drug trafficking.
Lake admits to lawmakers that he erred in failing to inform them about a 1994 administration decision to tacitly approve Iranian arms shipments to Bosnia. But he rejects the suggestion by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the committee chairman, that he gave congressional investigators false information about the deal.
Amid grumbling that the CIA has had seven directors or acting directors during the 1990s, Lake assures lawmakers and agency employees that he wants to hold the directorship through Clinton’s second term.
He has also assiduously courted the tightknit community of former CIA officers.
``Tony was an excellent customer. He has a very strong, inquiring mind,″ said Hugh Edward ``Ted″ Price, who ran the CIA’s super-secret Directorate of Operations _ the agency’s clandestine service _ in 1994 and 1995.
Price rejected suggestions that Lake shied away from CIA covert operations _ activities such as arms deals, military training or efforts to destabilize a hostile government _ that must be approved by the president but kept strictly secret.
``Tony was not squeamish and Tony had a lot of courage,″ Price said. ``He never sat on things. He took things forward (to Clinton) promptly and got answers.″
Richard Stolz, who held the same operations post as Price in the late 1980s, said he has heard little if any grumbling from among his colleagues about the selection of Lake. From those who have complained, Stolz said, ``I have not heard a single alternative. If you don’t like Lake, who’s your man?″