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Spy chief said to be moving to State

Negroponte set to take position as Rice's deputy

John Negroponte, who was sworn in as the first director of national intelligence in 2005, will reportedly become deputy secretary of state. John Negroponte, who was sworn in as the first director of national intelligence in 2005, will reportedly become deputy secretary of state. (Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS)

WASHINGTON -- National Intelligence Director John Negroponte will resign after 20 months in the job to become the deputy secretary of state, two US government official said last night.

Negroponte took over in April 2005 as the nation's first intelligence chief, responsible for overseeing all 16 US spy agencies. He will return to his roots as a career diplomat to become the No. 2 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the officials said.

One of the officials said that the timing of Negroponte's departure was uncertain but that it was expected soon. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there has been no announcement of the move.

Negroponte, 67, is stepping down as President Bush develops a new strategy on Iraq. The president has ordered reviews from his own agencies and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended a series of changes to reverse the "slide toward chaos."

Negroponte has held a series of tough assignments in the Bush administration and has been at the center of the Iraq debate since before the US-led invasion in March 2003. He served as US ambassador to the United Nations from 2001 to 2004 and ambassador to Baghdad until March 2005 before becoming intelligence chief. He also was ambassador to Mexico, from 1989-93.

Democrats taking control of Congress today have promised greater oversight of government agencies. The Senate Intelligence Committee, for instance, is planning hearings this month on the intelligence overhaul that Negroponte helped put in place.

Negroponte's transition to the State Department must be confirmed by the Senate, as would Bush's choice for his replacement. Both changes also will create new openings for the Democrats to debate the administration's intelligence and foreign policy direction.

The Office of the National Intelligence Director and the White House both declined to comment on Negroponte's resignation, which was first reported by NBC News.

The State Department also had no comment, but one official confirmed that Negroponte is to become deputy secretary of state. This official noted diplomatic qualifications credentials as a former ambassador.

In an interview with C-SPAN last month, Negroponte indicated that he wanted to stay on through the Bush administration.

Yet his answer to the question -- will he "stay with it for a while?" -- didn't close the door to a new assignment.

"In my own mind at least, I visualize staying with it through the end of this administration and, then I think, probably that'll be about the right time to pack it in," he told C-SPAN.

Robert Zoellick resigned as Rice's deputy in July to take a position with Goldman Sachs. She is said to have approached several candidates for what is widely regarded as a plum assignment, going for months without any takers.

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