The presidential commission investigating intelligence failures leading to the Iraq war wrote the following in its final report, released in March: "[I]t is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom." Embedded in that whopping understatement is a jewel of good governance: the free exchange of ideas, including an openness to dissent. For as we experience too often, the "conventional wisdom" is usually what those in power say it is.
In the current political climate, stifling opposition gets you awards and top posts. Former CIA Director George Tenet received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, even though many CIA officers expressed grave doubts about the Bush administrations claim that Saddam Hussein was developing deadly weapons. There was much to criticize about the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador - he spent much of his career trying to abolish the institution, for one thing - but Boltons admission during his confirmation hearings that he tried to reassign staffers who disagreed with him was cause enough for his rejection.
During his hearings for the new position of director of national intelligence, John Negroponte was asked if he would challenge the Bush administrations assertions if they differed from information gathered by intelligence agencies. Negroponte said he would "make sure the right intelligence is presented to the president [and] vice president."