Intelligence Chief Dennis Blair To Step Down
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And Im Robert Siegel.
There is a shake up at the top of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. President Obama is replacing his director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair. Blair said in a statement that he is resigning.
And joining me now is NPRs Tom Gjelten with the latest. Tom, what do we know about Admiral Blairs departure?
TOM GJELTEN: Robert, as you say, Admiral Blair put out a statement today. He said, it is with deep regret that I informed the president today that I will step down as director of national intelligence. And thatll be effective next Friday.
Lets focus on those words with deep regret. I dont think theres any question here that the White House wanted his resignation. Theres been disagreement, dissatisfaction on both sides over what Admiral Blairs role as national intelligence director should be. I think the final push did come from the White House.
Interestingly, Robert, you know, Admiral Blair normally goes to the White House each morning to give the president his daily intelligence brief. Well, today, the White House rescheduled that brief for the afternoon. And that briefing became the occasion for what one official told me was, quote, a significant conversation.
SIEGEL: And what are the issues involved here?
GJELTEN: Its basically this turf war. You know, the director of national intelligence position was created about five years ago, and the idea was that the director was to be the overall coordinator of intelligence in the U.S. government. But the CIA has continued to run most intelligence operations, and the lines of responsibility between the CIA and the DNI were never clear. There were tensions between the CIA director and the director of national intelligence even before Admiral Blair and Leon Panetta, the current CIA director, came along. But Ive been told that relations got much worse between Admiral Blair and Leon Panetta.
SIEGEL: This is a post-9/11 job that was created. He was supposed to be the one who connected the dots.
GJELTEN: Connect the dots.
SIEGEL: And there was a lot of criticism of the administrations handling of the Christmas Day bombing attempt and whether dots had been connected. Is this related to it?
GJELTEN: Its absolutely related. You know, even one senior intelligence official told me that behind Admiral Blair, theres a lot of broken glass. I mean, clearly there was, you know, an idea here that somebody dropped the ball. Somebody would have to be held accountable. And, you know, there was a report just this week from the Senate Intelligence Committee that made that point. And it seems that Admiral Blair is the one whos going to get this blame.
You know, we shouldve read the tea leaves here, Robert. General Jones James Jones, the presidents national security advisor, just came back from a trip to Pakistan with Leon Panetta, the CIA director. Admiral Blair was not invited on that trip and we now know why.
SIEGEL: So, any names yet on who might replace Admiral Blair?
GJELTEN: Well, a U.S. official tells us that we have been interviewing several strong candidates to replace Admiral Blair. One thing that seems clear is it will not be Leon Panetta. He is very happy running the CIA and Im told that he would not want to be DNI.
SIGEL: Could be part of the problem, though.
GJELTEN: You know, the interesting thing Robert, is that theoretically, the DNI is the top intelligence official and yet, it seems to be a position that is very hard to fill for some reason, I think partly because the responsibility lines are not clear.
There are a couple of other names out there. One of them is James Clapper, who is the currently the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, but no decision has been made yet, Robert.
SIEGEL: NPRs Tom Gjelten. Thank you, Tom.
GJELTEN: You bet, Robert.
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