S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Director of National Intelligence post to be vacant as of next Friday

DNI Dennis Blair's resignation will be effective next Friday, according to the Associated Press. Deputy National Intelligence Director David Gompert will become acting director until a permanent replacement is named. 
President Obama has already interviewed a number of replacement candidates for the very difficult DNI's job.  The AP article reported that the person at the head of the list is James R. Clapper, the Pentagon's top intelligence official, current and former U.S. officials said Friday.
. . . Clapper currently is defense undersecretary for intelligence.
. . .[Press Secretary] Gibbs was publicly supportive of Blair Friday, commending him for increasing the government's focus on counterterrorism and radicalization, particularly in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. Still, he said the president believed it was time to make a change.
"There is probably no harder job in Washington, besides being president, than being director of national intelligence," he said. "The president simply believed that it was time to transition to a different director."
Blair is the third person to hold the director of national intelligence job, which is to oversee the nation's 16 intelligence agencies. The post was created in response to the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
. . . As the Pentagon's new intelligence chief in 2007, Clapper recommended an end to the anti-terror database TALON that had been criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others whose actions posed no threat. Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved Clapper's recommendation, the Pentagon said at the time.
. . . Before working at the geospatial-intelligence agency, he was an executive at defense contracting firms such as Vredenburg; Booz Allen Hamilton; and SRA International.

Jake Tapper, ABC News White House correspondent, broke the story that President Obama would accept Admiral Blair's resignation on Wednesday afternoon.  Tapper's story revealed some interesting details about the change.  Blair was forced out, it seems, over a number of issues.  An anonymous official said,

. . . the ultimate reason Blair is gone is because of the dissatisfaction President Obama and the National Security Staff had with Blair’s ability to share intelligence in a tight, coherent and timely way.
This was, the official said, the result of long pent-up dissatisfaction with Blair as the principal intelligence adviser to the president, responsible for briefing the president every day and briefing the National Security Staff. In short, officials didn’t think the briefings were relevant to what the president was focused on that day or time period. They weren’t crisp or well-presented. . . At other times, Blair didn’t seem to take “no” for an answer, the official said.
The news will not come as a surprise to those in the intelligence community. For months, Blair has turf battles while the White House made it clear that it had more confidence in others, such as counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan, taking the lead both publicly and privately.  Last November, the White House sided with CIA director Leon Panetta when Blair attempted, against Panetta’s wishes, to pick the chief U.S. intelligence officer in each country, a job that traditionally has gone to the CIA station chief. Just this week – after a scathing report on intelligence failures and [Christmas day bomber] Abdulmuttalab by the Senate Intelligence Committee  -- Blair acknowledged in a statement that “institutional and technological barriers remain that prevent seamless sharing of information.”  The Senate Committee report was a strong message of disapproval of the job being done by Blair and the National Counterterrorism Center.
For Reference:  The subject of National Intelligence has long been thoroughly covered at South by Southwest.  Following is a list of past posts regarding the previous three Directors of National Intelligence :Dennis Blair - December 7, 2008   January 2, 2009   January 15, 2009   February 14, 2009   February 15, 2009   March 13, 2009   September 2, 2009 

Retired Admiral Dennis Blair had a certain amount of experience in the intelligence community, though it was not wide nor deep.  He also had a reputation as tough and a bit of a maverick.  His personality is just a bit abrasive and he has been known to be less than diplomatic.

Mike McConnell  - January 5, 2007 August 4, 2007  September 11, 2007  September 19, 2007  September 22, 2007   September 24, 2007  October 1, 2007   October 6, 2007   October 31, 2007   December 16, 2007  January 17, 2008 (1)   January 17, 2008 (2)   February 26, 2008   March 7, 2008   March 8, 2008   July 19, 2008   July 31, 2008   August 2, 2008   October 30, 2008  November 8, 2008  
Retired Admiral Mike McConnell could be characterized as an example of a revolving door appointee, with a work history in both the private sector and the military. Currently McConnell has rejoined Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. as senior vice president. McConnell previously served as director of national intelligence under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He served 29 years in the Navy and retired in 1996 as a vice admiral. He then joined Booz Allen rising to the position of senior vice president. He left the company in 2006 when he was named National Security Agency director. President Obama has asked McConnell to serve on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which advises the president on all matters related to intelligence.
His respect for civil liberties was always marginal.  He also could be very loose with the truth in testimony before Congress, or his public pronouncements.  He served as President-elect Obama's national security briefer from the time of his election to when Admiral Blair came on board.  Thus President Obama's views and approaches to national security were, in my opinion, heavily influenced by McConnell's values and perceptions.

John Negroponte - October 1, 2005  October 20, 2005   July 6, 2006  
John Negroponte was the first DNI, appointed after the reorganization of the national intelligence community, as recommended by the 9-11 Commission and authorized by Congress.  He had been the Ambassador to the U.N. and to Iraq.  More diplomatic than authoritarian, he did not start out by building a strong presence as DNI.  After serving as the DNI, Negroponte became the Deputy Secretary of State.  He is currently a professor of strategic studies at Yale University.

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