Recent Speeches

Mr. President, I come to the floor as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence to speak on two nominations that have been before our committee. Both of these nominees have been unanimously passed out by our committee. 

The first is the top person for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security.  Her name is Ms. Caryn Wagner. Second, Ambassador Phil Goldberg, who is nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research at the Department of State. 

These nominations are critically important to the safety and security of this Nation.  These are the top intelligence officials in two different departments.  There has been an objection to a unanimous request from the other side on the question to confirm these nominees.  The majority leader of the Senate has come to the floor twice to implore, to request, to ask that these two nominees be approved because these are top intelligence people for the respective departments. 

We just had a national threat hearing, a world threat hearing in the Intelligence Committee, open to the public and press, this afternoon.  I asked the question:  What is the possibility of an attack against the homeland in the next three to six months?  Is it high?  Is it low?  Director Blair; Director Panetta; Director Mueller of the FBI; the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Burgess; the acting head of the INR, the intelligence agency of the State Department, Ambassador Dinger -- every one of them said that there will be an attempt at an attack.  The threat is high.  Yet we cannot get confirmed two top people whose job it is to see that the analysis of this intelligence is correct. 

Let me speak for a moment about Caryn Wagner.  She has had a distinguished career in public and private service that has prepared her to be the Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis.

We just had an attempted Christmas attack on the homeland.  Ms. Wagner is the top person of that Department to deal with the intelligence related to exactly this -- protection of the homeland.

You might think, well, is there a problem with the nominee?  And the answer to that is no.  She is currently an instructor in intelligence resource management for the Intelligence and Security Academy.  She was hired from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  Prior to that, she served as the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Management and as the first Chief Financial Officer for the National Intelligence Program.  She assumed this position after serving as Executive Director for Intelligence Community Affairs. 

She also previously served as the senior Defense Intelligence Agency representative to the U.S. European Command and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as Deputy Director for Analysis and Production at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  She was also formerly staff director of the Subcommittee on Tactical and Technical Intelligence on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a signals intelligence and electronic warfare officer in the U.S. Army. 

She has been an intelligence official all of her professional life.  She is serious.  She is capable.  She is a good candidate for the position of Undersecretary of Homeland Security. 

We held a confirmation hearing on Ms. Wagner's nomination on December 1.  Given the overlapping interest of the Homeland Security Committee, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing on her confirmation on December 3.  There were no issues with her nomination in that committee. 

The position to which she is nominated is the top intelligence position in the Department of Homeland Security.  The main responsibilities of this office are to ensure that information related to homeland security threats are collected, analyzed, and disseminated to homeland security customers in the department at the state, local, and tribal levels.

So this is an important job.  There is no one in it.  We have just had an attack, and the chances of another attempted attack in the next 6 months are high.  Yet somebody on the other side -- I suspect for political reasons -- is holding her up.  It makes no sense, if you want to protect this Nation, to hold up this position. 

I hope whoever it is will come to the floor and explain why they are holding up this nominee, a woman who has had a lifetime dedicated to intelligence, who would be the top intelligence person in the Department of Homeland Security. One person holding her up, vetted by two committees, Intelligence and Homeland Security, without a negative vote at Intelligence. 

Why would someone hold her up?  For their own agenda?  Is it appropriate to hold her up for someone's own personal agenda, when you have the top person in that department responsible for intelligence, at a time when we have just had an attempted attack?

I think not. 

The Undersecretary of the office leads efforts to collect and analyze intelligence, to see that it is shared appropriately and provided to other intelligence community agencies.  The Undersecretary provides homeland security intelligence and advice to the Secretary, as well as to other senior officials in the Department, and serves as the Department's senior interagency intelligence representative.  They have no one right now.  It makes no sense to me. 

In short, this individual, the Undersecretary for Intelligence of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for ensuring that intelligence relating to a threat to the United States is acted upon.  That spot is vacant.  From an intelligence point of view, this is quite terrible.  It is deleterious.  It is not right for this body to hold up this nominee. 

Unfortunately, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis has experienced numerous problems in its short tenure.  Let me note some:  The office's ill-defined planning, programming, and budgeting processes; a gross overreliance on contractors, to the point that 63 percent of the workforce was contracted out as of this summer; and a lack of a strategic plan.  These are three major problems for which the Undersecretary needs to get on board.  The Undersecretary needs to solve these problems. 

On a number of occasions, the office has produced and disseminated finished intelligence that has been based on non-credible, open-source materials or focused intelligence resources on the First Amendment-protected activities of American citizens. 

So what is my bottom line? 

The office is in need of strong leadership from an Undersecretary with an extensive background in management of intelligence.  The Intelligence Committee is confident Ms. Wagner is such a person.  She is up to the challenge.  She testified that, if confirmed, among her first tasks will be to review a draft plan to restructure and refine the office's mission, which will be a good first indication of how Ms. Wagner will manage the organization.  We should get cracking.  We should get it done.  We should get this spot filled. 

I respectfully ask that if there is something we do not know, that the Homeland Security Committee does not know, that the Intelligence Committee does not know, that the person holding her up come to the floor and tell us what it is.  It is a significant deficit not to have this position filled. 

Let me turn to the nomination of Ambassador Philip Goldberg to be Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research at the State Department.  Again, the Intelligence Committee had a hearing.  We unanimously approved Ambassador Goldberg's nomination on December 10, the same day we reported out Ms. Wagner's nomination. 

Ambassador Goldberg has a distinguished 20-year career in the Foreign Service, where he has served as the charge d'affairs and deputy chief of mission in Santiago, Chile; the chief of mission in Pristina, Kosovo; and in the U.S. Embassies in Bogota, Colombia, and Pretoria, South Africa.  Ambassador Goldberg is a graduate of Boston University and, before joining the Foreign Service, he worked for the city of New York. 

From 2006 to 2008, he served as Ambassador to Bolivia, during a period of heightened tensions between our two countries.

In mid-September 2008, President Evo Morales accused Ambassador Goldberg of supporting opposition forces, declaring him persona non grata, and expelled him from the country. 

The Intelligence Committee carefully reviewed Ambassador Goldberg's conduct in Bolivia.  We have found he acted appropriately during his tenure and carried out the policies of the U.S. Government.  In fact, an inspector general report on the Embassy, published in September of 2008, gave Ambassador Goldberg and his deputy high marks, stating: 

“The Ambassador and the deputy chief of mission (DCM) provide clear policy guidance and leadership...[They gather] input and the advice from their staff, forging an excellent working relationship among all agencies and sections at post.”

After Ambassador Goldberg's expulsion from Bolivia, the State Department strongly defended the Ambassador, both in the public press as well as in internal memoranda.  In short, the Intelligence Committee believes Ambassador Goldberg acted professionally and bears no blame for the Bolivian decision to expel him. 

Since June of 2009, Ambassador Goldberg has served as the coordinator for the implementation of United Nations resolution 1874, which imposed economic and commercial sanctions on North Korea.  In this position, he has relied on sensitive intelligence reporting to build a diplomatic consensus to search North Korean cargo. 

Ambassador Goldberg appeared before the Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing on December 1, 2009.  Given its jurisdiction over the State Department, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also held a hearing on Ambassador Goldberg's nomination on November 19, 2009. No problems with the nomination were identified.

The unanimous view is Ambassador Goldberg is an experienced professional who is very capable and ready to assume his new duties. 

The position of Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research is a unique one in the intelligence community.  The bureau, which we refer to simply as INR, produces all source intelligence analysis to advise the Secretary of State and other senior policy officials and presents an important viewpoint in the internal deliberations of the intelligence analytic community.  INR analysts are highly expert in their fields and often improve the quality of coordinated intelligence assessments by challenging the views of other agencies and, if necessary, dissenting from consensus judgments, if they believe them to be incorrect or unsubstantiated. 

I first came to appreciate INR's independent-minded approach in 2002, when its analysts dissented from the official judgment of the intelligence community regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.  INR analysts expressed less certainty regarding the claim that Iraq was reconstituting nuclear weapons, believing that Saddam Hussein's pursuit of aluminum tubing was not for nuclear purposes. 

History, of course, proved the INR analysts to be correct, as Iraq was not reconstituting a nuclear weapons program. 

Bottom line:  Ambassador Goldberg is well-qualified, and the position for which he has been nominated to fill is an important one within the intelligence community.  There has been no reason put forward why he should not be confirmed.  Two committees have held hearings. The Intelligence Committee recommended his confirmation unanimously. We did for both these nominees.  Yet there is a hold on the other side of the aisle.  

As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I believe it places our Nation at a security disadvantage.  I urge that change.  I urge that whoever has the hold, if they have something that is consequential against either one of these nominees, do the honorable thing.  Come to the floor of the Senate, express your objections.  Have the debate and dialog on the ability, the experience,  the doings of these two people.  They are superbly qualified.  Neither one of these was plucked out of some political community and thrust into these positions.  They have both been dedicated professionals.  That is one of the reasons why this hold is so difficult to understand.

I wish the Senate to know that the Intelligence Committee, which I am proud to chair, takes its responsibility to review the President's nominees to positions requiring Senate confirmation very seriously.  Our process is thorough and bipartisan.  The staff does an investigation.  The documents are reviewed.  The hearing is held.  Written questions are sent.  Written questions are answered.  The questions and their answers are read. The committee discusses it and votes.  In this case, three committees have reviewed these two nominees. The Intelligence Committee has found them qualified for their positions.  Yet they are held up. 

Consider that on Christmas Day we had someone who tried to explode a device, a device which will be perfected, which will be used again, which is basically impossible to find by a magnetometer in an airport, which will be used again, and that intelligence professionals assess with confidence that we face another attack.  We ought to get these positions filled. 

Unless there is some reason why these two nominees are faulty, if they are not qualified, if they have done something wrong, then I say come to the floor and oppose them openly.  But "time's a wastin'.”  These positions have to be staffed.  This country has to be protected.  Our intelligence professionals need to be in place.  In two departments, we have two high-level positions relating to intelligence that are not filled and should be filled and these nominees are waiting. 

So I hope someone is listening.  I hope, somehow, someway, this will make a difference.  And I very much hope we will be able to confirm both of these nominees -- reviewed by the Foreign Relations Committee, one; by the Homeland Security Committee, the other; and reviewed and approved by the Intelligence Committee, both. 

Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I yield the floor.