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Panel on Blair's Resignation

Panel on Blair's Resignation

By Special Report With Bret Baier - May 20, 2010

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is a Fox News alert. We just now have a statement from outgoing National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair. It reads in part, "It is with deep regret that I inform the president today that I will step down as director of national intelligence effective Friday, May 28. I have had no greater honor and pleasure than lead the remarkably talented and patriotic men and women of the intelligence committee."

He goes on in the statement to call them true heroes.

This announcement that he is going to resign came today, and it came after many appearances on Capitol Hill where Blair was very blunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS BLAIR, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: The level of the political dimension of what to me ought to be a national security issue has been quite, quite high. I don't think it's been particularly good, I will tell you, from the inside, in terms of us trying to get the right job done to protect the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, had this statement late this afternoon, quote, "Blair's resignation is the result of the Obama administration's rampant politicization of the national security and outright disregard for congressional intelligence oversight.

Blair's resignation is disturbing and unfortunate. The concerns I have come from how the Obama administration conducts national security, not over the director of national intelligence, who they never allowed to do it."

Let's bring in our panel, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Big news day, Charles. What do you think?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think one of the reasons he was let go was what we saw in video that you just showed. I'll give the background on that. Remember when Abdulmutallab was captured in Detroit for trying to blow up the airplane, he was questioned for less than an hour and then he got his Miranda rights, and he said nothing for over a month. After that, the family arrived and he started talking.

At that point the administration began leaking a lot of information as a way to undo political damage because they had taken a lot of attacks in the month when he wasn't saying anything for actually mirandizing him and losing potentially important information about terrorists he was with in Yemen.

So once he started talking there were all kind of stories about connections with Yemen, et cetera. What you heard Blair talking about was how displayed he was by all those leaks, because if you are in intelligence and you are getting all this information, you don't want it publicized in the way the enemies in Yemen will hear about it and take measures, hiding, running away, or whatever.

So this was a fairly strong attack on the White House for using intelligence as a way to tar up the political position, which had been damaged by the mirandizing issue and to actually jeopardize American national security.

Even though he said it in fractured syntax, it was a strong message and I think it hurt his standing inside the White House. I can understand why a president would be offended and want to fire him over that.

BAIER: Mara, it comes after a series of attempts and one attack. Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas day bomber, Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, a string of these.

And just this week, the Senate intelligence committee coming without a report on the Christmas day bomber and it was pretty scathing.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think that more the reason than he over time lost the president's confidence in him, and much more than him speaking out of turn or making a criticism of the Obama administration.

I actually thought that chairman Hoekstra's statement was really, really, I don't know if I'd say over the top, but it was really quite something to attack the Obama administration national security and say somehow that Blair was the only thing right about it. I don't remember the Republicans being great champions of Dennis Blair before this.

But I do think it's an effort by the president to correct some problems. I think that is a good thing. He wants the national security apparatus to work better and to head off some of the attacks rather than merely respond to them afterwards.

BAIER: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's more an effort by the president to get rid of someone who wasn't entirely part of this tight little team he has running everything, which is John Brennan at the National Security Council and Eric Holder, the attorney general. Intelligence professionals have been cut out.

Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, as everyone knows, is spending a lot of time in Monterey, California, and is not in the closest loop on a lot of intelligence matters.

And Dennis Blair really was thrown out. The statement is amazing. You read the first few paragraphs. It's five paragraphs long. He said the people in the committee are heroes, a great tribute to the intelligence community. Not a word of thanks to President Obama.

I've actually almost never seen anything of it. When I was in the White House I wrote the resignation statement and the gracious acceptance of the resignation statement. I've never seen, except when Reagan fired Don Regan and left a two-sentence note and walked out the door.

It does not say "I appreciate the opportunity that President Obama has given me to serve the country, and high regard for the administration..."

BAIER: You're right. Not one word about the administration, about President Obama, not a word.

KRISTOL: The word "Obama" is not in the statement. I informed the president that I'm leaving, not a word about Napolitano, Holder, colleagues at the level. There is a war going on beneath the surface between intelligence professionals on one hand and White House and the Justice Department on the other, and that's what this firing is about.

KRAUTHAMMER: And all that leaking of information about Yemen was coming out of the White House, and it was the intelligence community that was extremely upset about that and lost control of the process and seeing its information being used for political reasons. So I can understand all that tension.

There's one other reason, the administration has now had, as you said, three attacks, only one of which succeeded, but the others could have. It needs a fall guy. And he had already run afoul of them so why not have him walk the plank and say - to imply that he was at fault and because of him there wasn't coordination or connection of dots. And thus he's out of the way and the president is clear.

 

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