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Dennis Blair's Replacement Has Problems to Solve

By Washington Post, Washington Post - May 22, 2010

THE RESIGNATION of Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence was the product of personal as well as institutional failings. A retired admiral with a distinguished record of service, Mr. Blair's political judgment looked questionable from the beginning of his DNI tenure, when he nominated a former ambassador with close ties to China and Saudi Arabia -- and crackpot views about the Israel "lobby" -- to chair the National Intelligence Council. After the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing, Mr. Blair told Congress that the Nigerian suspect should have been questioned by the interagency interrogation group created by the administration for terrorism cases -- only to acknowledge later that the team had not yet been launched.

But Mr. Blair's biggest problem was his poor management of the problem he inherited from his three, also short-lived, predecessors: the lack of clear authorities and responsibilities for his office, which was created by Congress in 2004 in an ill-considered attempt to respond to the intelligence failures before Sept. 11, 2001. Though it has mushroomed into a quasi-agency with 1,500 employees, the office of the DNI has never exercised authority over the nation's other intelligence agencies or solved the problem of their failure to share and synthesize information about key threats.

 

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