ABC News’s Jake Tapper reports that that Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair (ret.) could resign from the administration as early as tomorrow:
For several weeks President Obama has been holding serious conversations about whether to ask Blair to step down and has interviewed candidates to replace him. After a discussion this afternoon between the president and Blair in the Oval Office about the best way forward, Blair offered to resign and the president said he would accept, sources told ABC News.
Multiple administration sources tell ABC News that Blair’s tenure internally has been a rocky one.
On the heels of a number of intelligence failures involving the Fort Hood shooter, failed Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, and questions about failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, it was no longer clear that Blair — tasked with coordinating the 16 intelligence agencies and ensuring that they cooperate and share information – still had the full and complete confidence of the president, sources say.
The news will not come as a surprise to those in the intelligence community. For months, Blair has turf battles while the White House made it clear that it had more confidence in others, such as counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan, taking the lead both publicly and privately.
Last November, the White House sided with CIA director Leon Panetta when Blair attempted, against Panetta’s wishes, to pick the chief U.S. intelligence officer in each country, a job that traditionally has gone to the CIA station chief.
At other points, Blair seemed simply out of the loop. In hearings looking into failed Christmas Day bomber Abdulmuttalab, Blair seemed unaware that the High-Value interrogation Group was not yet operational. He later walked back his statement.
Quick take: Whatever his other flaws, there is no question Blair was in part a victim of the post-9/11 intelligence “reforms” that made the U.S. intelligence and national security structures even more byzantine and balkanized than they already were. Since it now appears that CIA Director Leon Panetta won the turf war with Blair, whoever Obama taps to replace Blair will have to get wise to the food chain.
UPDATE: Here’s a statement from Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R., Mich.) ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra lauds Blair as “the one person you could count on for rationality among Holder, Napolitano and Brennan.” He says the resignation is “the result of the Obama administration’s rampant politicization of national security and outright disregard for congressional intelligence oversight:”
“Dennis Blair was the consummate public servant who dedicated much of his professional life to the safety and defense of our great nation. He pushed for openness, transparency and the participation of the congressional intelligence committees in conducting intelligence oversight. I had high hopes for his willingness to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to ensure that America’s intelligence professional had the tools, resources and authorities they need to help protect our homeland.
“That a man who has willingly dedicated himself to the cause of our nation’s freedom would rather step down than continue to serve as America’s top intelligence officer is a disturbing sign of the stranglehold the Obama White House has placed on America’s intelligence agencies. Clearly, and understandably, Director Blair was frustrated by the White House’s micromanagement and sidelining of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on national security issues.
“Blair’s resignation is the result of the Obama administration’s rampant politicization of 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.
“Congressional Republicans we will be watching closely who the president plans to name as a successor. Right now, the Obama administration’s national security apparatus is broken, dysfunctional and in disarray. Dennis Blair was the one person you could count on for rationality among Holder, Napolitano and Brennan—and he’s the one the president let go.”