The Bush Administration's rough treatment of captured terror suspects has bedeviled President-elect Barack Obama's efforts to fill key posts on his intelligence team, as nearly every qualified candidate is linked, however remotely, to the practices. But according to multiple sources close to his transition team, Obama is circling nearer on some picks.
The head of Obama's intel transition team, John Brennan, was the leading candidate for CIA chief until he was slammed by liberal bloggers for not doing enough while serving as a top CIA and anti-terror official to oppose Bush. Current CIA chief Michael Hayden is keen to stay on for a while in an Obama administration, and intel officials say that would be good for agency morale. But Obama voted against Hayden's confirmation in 2006—and other Democrats believe he defended Bush policies too zealously. Several people close to the Obama transition, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive deliberations, say the leading candidate to replace Hayden is his deputy, Stephen Kappes, who was No. 2 in the CIA's covert-ops division from 2002 to 2004, which means he was almost surely involved in interrogation policy. But Kappes's backers say he was working on counterintel issues—uncovering moles—when the CIA set up its "secret prison" network. If Kappes's star falls, other CIA candidates are said to include another former senior spy, Mary Margaret Graham, and former congressman Tim Roemer, an intel-reform advocate.
The sources say the top candidate for National Intelligence director—a post established by Congress after 9/11, but whose powers are still being debated—is retired Admiral Dennis Blair. A former chief of U.S. Pacific forces, Blair has broad military command experience—a plus for Obama—and he also has no obvious connection to controversial Bush policies. Obama could please his base with another possible pick: Maureen Baginski, an Obama intel-team member who spent years at NSA and joined the FBI after 9/11, is being mentioned as a candidate to become the first civilian and first female director of NSA. A spokeswoman for Obama declined to comment on personnel deliberations.