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Negroponte, John Dimitri

NEGROPONTE, JOHN DIMITRI

In April 2005, John Negroponte was confirmed as Director of National Intelligence, having already held posts including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during the U.S. occupation of that country following the 2003 U.S. invasion. Prior to those posts, Negroponte was best know for serving as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, during a period in which the United States assisted the Contras in fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Negroponte was born on July 21, 1939, in London, England, and was of Greek descent. In 1960, he graduated from Yale University with his B.A. Upon graduation, he immediately entered public service. His first post was as a consular officer (vice consul) in Hong Kong from 1961-63.

Throughout much of the 1960s, Negroponte was involved in the Vietnam War as an American diplomat. Vietnamese was one of five languages that Negroponte could speak. From 1964-68, he was the second secretary and political officer at the American embassy in Saigon. Negroponte worked with Henry Kissinger, who was then National Security Advisor, until the pair had a falling out. In 1968, Negroponte was a member of the United States delegation at the peace talks in Paris, France to end the war. Concerns of war were also the focal point of his next assignment. In 1970, he was a member of the delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the 1970s, Negroponte's diplomatic missions were generally more peaceful. From 1970 to 1973, he was a member of the National Security Council staff, resigning this post perhaps because of conflicts with Kissinger again. He then went to Ecuador, where he was first secretary and political counselor in the United States embassy at Quito through 1975. Negroponte received his first consul general post in 1975 when he represented the United States in Greece. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter, Negroponte worked stateside. From 1977 to 1979, he was the deputy assistant secretary of state, specifically the ambassador for oceans and fisheries affairs. In 1980-81, he was again a deputy assistant secretary of state, but this time in charge of East Asian and Pacific affairs.

In the 1970s, Negroponte's diplomatic missions were generally more peaceful. From 1970 to 1973, he was a member of the National Security Council staff, resigning this post perhaps because of conflicts with Kissinger again. He then went to Ecuador, where he was first secretary and political counselor in the United States embassy at Quito through 1975. Negroponte received his first consul general post in 1975 when he represented the United States in Greece. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter, Negroponte worked stateside. From 1977 to 1979, he was the deputy assistant secretary of state, specifically the ambassador for oceans and fisheries affairs. In 1980-81, he was again a deputy assistant secretary of state, but this time in charge of East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Negroponte was a seasoned diplomat when President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. Reagan selected Negroponte for a sensitive ambassadorship, to Honduras. For the next four years, Negroponte allegedly used the powerful position to help the United States government fight a guerrilla war against the Sandanista government of Nicaragua. He also probably played a role in the Iran-Contra affair as it was later revealed that he did oversee the arming of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Negroponte would later come under scrutiny for another aspect to his tenure in Honduras. He might have consented to, or perhaps was directly involved in, human rights abuses. A death squad, backed by the CIA, worked in Honduras to ensure communists could not get a foothold in, let alone take over, the country. Though Negroponte would deny knowledge of such events, later information would contradict his statements.

Negroponte's work in Honduras came under scrutiny when President George Bush selected him as ambassador to Mexico. Negroponte faced a long confirmation hearings process that dragged on for months. The primary problem was Negroponte's alleged role in the Iran-Contra affair. When he was Honduras' ambassador, he allegedly attended a meeting in which then-Vice President Bush offered more aid to the president of Honduras if Honduras would back the contras in Nicaragua.

John Dimitri Negroponte

1960      Graduated Yale University

1981–1985      U.S. Ambassador to Honduras

2001–2004      U.S. Ambassador to United Nations

2004–2005      U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

2005      Confirmed as Director of National Intelligence

Negroponte was eventually confirmed and faced a difficult situation in Mexico. His tenure was again controversial. Some believed he quietly, covertly worked for United States' interests in Mexico, while others believe his work was not negative, but fruitful. Those who subscribed to the latter idea believed relations between the countries were improved during his time there. He also partially set the stage for the North American Free Trade Agreement which would come into being during the presidency of Bill Clinton. When Bush left office in 1993, Negroponte's ambassadorship came to an end. Clinton decided to send Negroponte to another important diplomatic post, as ambassador to the Philippines, in 1993. During his time in the country, Negroponte had to deal with two problematic consul generals who allegedly traded visas to the United States in exchange for sexual favors and other kickbacks. After three years, Negroponte returned to Central American issues when he was named special coordinator for the United States' presence in Panama after 1999. Negroponte then essentially retired from public service.

In 2001, Negroponte was pulled back into public service when newly elected president George W. Bush nominated him to be the United States' ambassador to the United Nations. Negroponte again faced much opposition because of lingering controversy over events in Honduras in the 1980s. There was evidence that he might have previously lied to Congress, primarily from newly de-classified documents and witnesses that could attest to his falsehoods. Still, he was confirmed and served in that role until Bush named him to replace L. Paul Bremer as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Following what was considered by many a fairly successful stint in that position, Bush then appointed him to be the first Director of National Intelligence, seeing him confirmed in April 2005.

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