A change in intelligence

A CHANGE IN INTELLIGENCE…. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the upcoming Obama administration is not likely to make major changes to the government’s intelligence-gathering operations. For those hoping to see a break with Bush-era intelligence-related scandals, the report was disconcerting, to put it mildly.

As a reminder of why it’s best not to invest too much energy on pre-announcement speculation, the Washington Post has a front-page item today pointing in the opposite direction.

The nation’s top two intelligence officers expect to be replaced by President-elect Barack Obama early in his administration, according to senior intelligence officials.

A number of influential congressional Democrats oppose keeping Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden in their posts because both have publicly supported controversial Bush administration policies on interrogation and telephone surveillance.

Obama transition officials haven’t said much on the subject, but “McConnell and Hayden, both career intelligence professionals, interpret the Obama team not reaching out to them as a sign that they will not be kept on, intelligence officials said.”

Hayden and McConnell, it’s also worth noting, “publicly defended the use of ‘extraordinary’ interrogation measures that critics labeled torture.”

So, in successive days, major national dailies have reported that Obama plans to leave the existing intelligence apparatus largely intact, and he also plans to replace the top two intelligence officers in the government because of their role in the existing intelligence apparatus.

Political observers will probably have to be patient, resisting the temptation to pounce on every report as evidence of Obama offering too much or not enough change.