Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

Although few American intelligence observers were astonished by last week’s involuntary resignation of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the silence by the White House on the subject has raised quite a few eyebrows in Washington. Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who became DNI in January of 2009, announced his resignation on Friday. Blair’s announcement came after a prolonged period of controversy, which included bitter infighting with the CIA, and culminated with the recent partial publication of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which blamed “systemic failures across the Intelligence Community” for the so-called Christmas bomb plot of last December. The problem is that Admiral Blair’s replacement will be the fourth DNI in five years, after John Negroponte, Mike McConnell and Blair himself. As one Capitol Hill insider noted yesterday, “that turnover has to be worrisome”, and may point to structural problems with the Office of the DNI, which exist independently of any administrative or leadership abilities of individual appointees. In the words of Georgetown professor and former CIA official Paul Pillar, “[m]ore and more people are now willing to question whether [the creation of the post of the DNI in 2004] was an improvement or not”. But dissolving the ODNI, which is supposed to mediate between the 16-member US intelligence community and the White House, does not appear to be among the Obama administration’s immediate plans. This means that the new DNI will have to lead a US intelligence community that is “largely suspicious and resentful of him”, with little or no authority to institute reforms, and yet with the danger of being “held to account for each undetected terrorist plot” from now on.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

One Response to Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

  1. weave says:

    Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

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