The Senate continued with the consideration of the nomination.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, let me speak on the subject that drew me to the floor, and that is the debate on the confirmation of Robert Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence. In this regard, I do this under the unanimous-consent request that I entered into earlier.
Mr. President, there has been a great deal of discussion on this. I have spent an awful lot of time on this nomination.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair would inquire of the Senator from Vermont, is the Senator from Vermont speaking in favor or in opposition? We need to know who to charge the time to.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I will vote today for the confirmation of Robert Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Would the Senator then ask unanimous consent that the time be charged on that side, please?
Mr. LEAHY. I ask that the time be charged on that side.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I might state, I appreciate the Chair's request. I might say, under the earlier unanimous-consent request entered into, I would advise the Parliamentarian, I would have been able to speak.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. For the information of the Senator from Vermont, the Chair asked the question because the Parliamentarian asked him to do so.
Mr. LEAHY. I understand. We entered into a unanimous-consent agreement that I would have been able to speak.
To get back at the subject at hand.
This was a difficult decision. It came after extensive meetings with Mr. Gates, Senator Boren, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee whom I respect greatly and other members of the Intelligence Committee, including some of those who voted against Mr. Gates in the Committee--for whom I have great respect--discussions by my staff with committee staff on the hearings, and a careful review of the lengthy committee report.
The decision was a close call. Mr. Gates who I expect will be confirmed easily, carries a heavy load on his shoulders. There remain concerns about his passivity during the Iran-Contra fiasco, and widespread charges about his willingness to tell those above him what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Fairly or not, he bears the legacy of the Casey years, when deceit, misinformation, illegal operations and, to put it charitably, misleading of the oversight committees and Congress were the norm.
Most troubling of all, there is a deeply disturbing pattern of allegations from past and present analysts in the CIA that Mr. Gates, from time to time, committed the cardinal sin against objective intelligence analysis--that he slanted key intelligence judgments to suit the policy proclivities of William Casey and the Reagan White House.
Based on my detailed discussions with Mr. Gates, with Senator Boren, current and former leaders of the intelligence community, and my reading of the record, I cannot find any smoking gun on any of these allegations. None of the evidence unambiguously points to mistakes or activities by Mr. Gates that clearly disqualify him for the post of Director of Central Intelligence.
In reaching this decision to vote for Robert Gates, I gave great weight to several arguments in his favor.
First, there is my own long association with Mr. Gates, first in my capacity as vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and since in my capacity as chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee and member of the Defense Subcommittee especially in dealing with appropriations for intelligence matters. In all these positions, when I have had to deal with Mr. Gates, at times on quite sensitive intelligence or foreign policy matters, I have found him to be forthcoming, cooperative, and candid. Of the many senior intelligence or White House policy officials with whom I have dealt during the Reagan and Bush administrations, Mr. Gates has struck me as one of the few who actually understands and acts on the validity of and need for congressional oversight. I have had briefings from him straight through this year and I found him to be candid in those briefings.
Whether this cooperation reflects genuine conviction that oversight is a vital protection against abuse, or merely a realistic acceptance of the power and authority of Congress is irrelevant. The fact is that in all my dealings with him, so far as I can tell, Mr. Gates has never held back sharing sensitive and highly classified intelligence and other information from me. Leaders of the Intelligence Committee tell my they have had the same experience.
Then, there are Mr. Gates' personal qualifications. He is extraordinarily experienced in intelligence, with over 25 years in the field. The intelligence community, including the CIA, is going to pass through one of the most turbulent periods in its history over the next 3 or 4 years. Profound adjustments to the ending of the cold war will be necessary. The intelligence budget, which has grown for a decade, is now going to shrink and perhaps substantially. Three will be reductions in personnel and resources. There will be major redefinitions of missions and roles. U.S. intelligence will look a lot different 3 or 4 years from now.
A strong, experienced hand is needed to guide U.S. intelligence through this period of restructuring and readjustment. Mr. Gates is highly qualified to provide the leadership the intelligence community needs.
Third, to be blunt, Mr. President, Mr. Gates, with all his flaws and with all the clouds hanging over him, is surely far more qualified for this important position than anyone the White House is likely to put forward if he is not confirmed. One of the most troubling failures of the Bush White House is the recent pattern of mediocre, politically motivated appointments to key positions. I dread to think what kind of `no record, no opinions, no ideas' cipher the White House handlers would find if Mr. Gates is rejected.
It would probably be someone picked more for his or her lack of any controversial views or experience than a person the President believes is best suited to head U.S. intelligence in what is certain to be a very rough period.
Mr. President, I will vote for Mr. Gates. But in doing so, I want to send him a message. The following words are directed to him.
Mr. Gates, insofar as I can do so as one Senator, I will strongly react to any credible information that indicates you or your aides are politicizing intelligence analysis to suit your personal views or the ideological or policy desires of the White House. I will do so through my work on the intelligence budget in the Defense Subcommittee, through discussions with the Intelligence Committee leadership, and, if necessary, by going to the Senate leadership.
Furthermore, if it ever comes to my attention that any of the current or former CIA analysts who came forward to offer information or views about your record or your suitability to be Director of Central Intelligence are being punished, harassed or otherwise penalized, I will go immediately to the Intelligence Committee to ask for decisive action against you. I welcome the strong statement the present chairman of the committee has made in this regard, and having served with Senator Boren on that committee, I know, when Senator Boren makes a statement of that nature, he will carry it out.
And, finally, if it ever comes out that despite your statements to the contrary, you knew of or were involved in the abuses of the Casey era, including the diversion of money to the Contras from the Iran arms for hostages deals, I will urge your removal from office. Knowing me as you do, you would not expect anything else.
Mr. President, let me say in the positive area, Mr. Gates will have a superb opportunity to overcome the doubts and reservations of many during the coming years. I hope I have occasion in the future to commend him for his leadership. On balance, I expect that to be the case.
There is a difficult time ahead for the intelligence community in this country. It is not amateur hour, nor should it be. At the same time, if this country ever needed an intelligence community that could give straightforward, honest, objective analysis devoid of trying to twist it for policy considerations, that time is now. And so, with an act of faith that we will get that from the new Director, I will vote for Robert Gates.