Saturday, December 20, 2008

Proposed Director of National Intelligence

I am trying to beat the New Englander to the punch here. A sort of scoop.

Dana Priest of The Washington Post has an interesting article on Admiral Dennis Blair, who is rumored to be President Elect Obama's choice for Director of National Intelligence (the head guy in the labyrinth of intelligence agencies and bureaus in the Federal Government--even higher that the Director of the CIA). The web site for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is here. Incidentally, if you go to the site you will see a bluish rectangle with a stylized globe floating over a body of water. Click on it and you have the synopsis of the latest view of the world in 2025, including four possible futures. Clicking here takes you directly to the report.

Dana Priest is a reliable reporter on military affairs, so I assume this is the nominee.

Admiral Blair has held responsible positions on active duty and in retirement. His last job in uniform, as a four star admiral, was as the Commander of the US Pacific Command, with responsibility from our West Coast around into the Indian Ocean.

In retirement he went to a think tank--the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA). IDA is like the Rand Corporation or the Center for Naval Analysis--a place where the Department of Defense, and other government agencies, can obtain high powered analysis and sometimes "out of the box" thinking.

While on active duty, per the article, Admiral Blair served for a time as a liaison to the CIA, where he developed a dislike for "hidden agendas."

Intelligence is an interesting and frustrating area. With the many different intelligence organizations in the Federal Government, it is always easy to find one that was right about any given event. On the other hand, building a consensus makes for squeezing out the outliers, where truth may be hiding. I kid my oldest son, who has time as an Imagery Analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, that an Intelligence Analyst is someone with two points and a straight edge. That works until it doesn't. Knowing when the world changes is hard.

On top of knowing when the world changes, Admiral Blair will have to herd a lot of cats and those cats leak like a sieve when there is media around.

I wish the Admiral luck.

And, I note, I am, so far, fairly impressed with President Elect Obama's choices for important appointments in his Administration.

Regards -- Cliff

3 comments:

John said...

Dennis Blair should be rejected National Director of Intelligence because of his role in the East Timor crisis of 1999. He undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit military assistance. In fact, he downplayed human rights concerns and essentially gave a go ahead to the Indonesian military to violate human rights. see here for the details.

C R Krieger said...

John's point about Indonesia is one worth considering. Admiral Blair's position was that engagement with the Indonesian military was important to provide a moderating influence. It is like the "School of the Americas" issue (or whatever they are calling it now). Do we engage in hopes of having some influence or do we shun in hopes of forcing change.

I do note that Dana Priest includes in her article the statement that the US Ambassador to Indonesia at the time, who opposed Admiral Blair's position, has endorsed Admiral Blair for this new position.

However, hiding somewhere in this is a whole new thread on the relative positions of influence of the Ambassador and the DoD Regional Commander. Maybe someday.

I hope John returns to comment on other threads.

Regards -- Cliff

The New Englander said...

Cliff,

Dittoes on your feelings towards Obama's appointments so far (and good work on the scoop..I've been a big Dana Priest fan since reading 'The Mission' but first saw that info here on your blog)

One thing worth adding is that this is theoretically one of the single biggest cabinet appointments in terms of access to POTUS...Admiral McConnell spoke at last year's Naval Intelligence dinner in Arlington and explained that he spent an hour a day with Dubya...I can imagine how tightly controlled any President's schedule must be, so if POTUS is saying that ANYONE is worth nearly 10% of his working day, that's just a huge deal.

But of course that's not necessarily a predictor of a President Obama-DNI relationship...Clinton had most of his daily intel briefs sent over for his reading vice the in-person thing..

best,
gp