President Bush, warning that terrorists “would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change,” said Thursday that he intends to talk to President-elect Obama on Monday about issues that will face his administration, including the turmoil in the financial markets and the war in Iraq.
The White House is especially concerned that the nation will be vulnerable during the transition between the Bush and Obama administrations. In one sign of that, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, flew to Chicago on Thursday to present Obama with his first top-secret intelligence briefing.
But at least one topic that loomed heavily over the discussions was reportedly never broached: Who would Obama pick to advise him on the nation's most sensitive intelligence secrets during the next four years?
The Obama camp has offered no hints of how it plans to fill top intelligence posts, including the positions of director of national intelligence, now held by Mike McConnell, and CIA director, held by Michael Hayden.
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Unlike the FBI director, the top posts at the CIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence do not come with a set term that transcends presidential administrations. And, while both officials are appointed by the president and serve at his pleasure, the White House has broader discretion in filling intelligence posts and can elect to keep the current leadership in place.
President Bush, after assuming office in 2001, decided to retain George Tenet as CIA director, even though Tenet had been appointed by Bush's Democratic predecessor.
Many former and intelligence officials interviewed said they believed that Obama would prefer a fresh start, but some speculated that he may keep a few top officials in place to preserve continuity in a time when the nation is fighting two foreign wars as well as a counterterrorism campaign against al-Qaida.
The New York Times and The Washington Post contributed.