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Lake's Confirmation Hearing Finally Begins

Sen. Shelby still has questions about CIA director nominee

hearing

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 11) -- Anthony Lake, President Bill Clinton's choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency, went on the defense this afternoon as his confirmation hearing got underway.

Lake, under fire from some conservative GOP senators, said he would keep Congress in the loop with monthly intelligence briefings if he wins the Senate's approval.

"If confirmed, my job will be to present the views of the intelligence community, and my own judgment, unvarnished and unprejudiced," Lake said. "We must have an intelligence process of absolute integrity."

Lake is expected to face tough scrutiny by senators over the next two weeks. But barring any surprise disclosures, he is expected to win approval.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, said the panel wants to look at Lake's views on foreign policy, his personal finances and what role if any he had in the spreading Democratic fund-raising controversy.

Lake

"This nomination brings controversy to an agency that's at a crucial, critical time in its history," Shelby told CNN. "And we don't need that." The CIA has had three directors in five years and has been gored by revelations that several agents worked secretly for Moscow.

On Monday, Lake, Clinton's first-term national security advisor, got a boost with word he has been endorsed by three respected former senators, David Boren of Oklahoma, Sam Nunn of Georgia and Warren Rudman of New Hampshire. Lake also has been endorsed by ex-CIA director John Deutch.

Shelby

Lake's hearing has been delayed twice. But an Associated Press survey suggests he has the votes he needs to win confirmation, unless some new information changes senators' opinions.

Before confirmation, Lake is likely to be grilled about his management of U.S. international policy. In Bosnia, it was Lake who secretly gave a green light for Iran to send weapons and ammunition through Croatia to the Bosnian Muslims. Not only did he keep that move from Congress, but he didn't tell the Central Intelligence Agency, either.

In a May 1996 interview with "Inside Politics," Lake said: "The policy worked, and now we're getting the Iranians and their influence out of Bosnia, and I think it's a good story."

In his time in Washington, Lake has not been a very public figure. He remained almost invisible -- and, diplomats say, often inaccessible -- during the first couple of years in the Clinton White House.

Some analysts suggest Lake could make a good spy chief because he's been a "consumer" of the CIA's work for years in government. Others argue Lake's background could lead him to politicize the supposedly apolitical work of the intelligence agency.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: "I don't want to attack him, but there are too many things that are too worrying for me in his background and I suspect there are a lot of senators that feel that way."

CNN's Ralph Begleiter contributed to this report.

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