by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has put him at odds with just about everyone--including, some think, his bosses in the White House. Blair, discussing the failed attack on Flight 253 by Farouk Abdulmutallab, leveled a number of criticisms, some in areas for which he is responsible, some not. He admitted that U.S. intelligence underestimated the threat from the Yemen-based group linked to the attack. He also conceded that the terrorist watchlists should have prevented his boarding the flight. Controversially, he condemned the FBI's interrogation of Abdulmutallab as a civilian rather than an enemy combatant. He also refused to defend the White House's decision to try him before a civilian court.
- White House Backlash Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that White House officials are "flabbergasted" and "infuriated" by Blair's "galling" testimony. He says one "senior official" called Blair "misinformed on multiple levels and all the more damaging because they immediately fueled Republican criticism that the administration mishandled the Christmas Day incident in its treatment of the accused Qaeda operative as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant."
- Could Blair Be Fired? The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder says Blair's statements have got him in hot water with his bosses. "I know for a fact [he] caused consternation at the White House." But Ambinder writes that, all the same, "Firing him before Congressional hearings would be a mistake" because "a Congressional report will give the administration a pretext, if they need one, to dismiss their intel chief." But there may not be a viable replacement anyway. "Blair is as good as they get, and he's faced continuous troubles for his trouble." Spencer Ackerman dissents: "How long until the White House dumps its director of national intelligence?"
- Doesn't Know What He's Talking About That's the bipartisan consensus emerging from revelations that Blair was wrong about a number of things. For example, Blair told Congress that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by a special unit called HIG, which, it turns out, does not yet exist. Adam Serwer of the liberal American Prospect writes, "The actual news here seems to be that DNI Blair seemed not to know what he was talking about, not that the government's behavior in the aftermath of the failed underwear bombing was unusual or reckless." Conservative blogger Allahpundit agrees. "[R]remember that the guy who could have made an executive decision here was so absurdly unprepared for his own Senate grilling on this subject a few months ago that he couldn't answer a basic question from Lindsey Graham about whether we'd have to read Bin Laden his Miranda rights if we captured him."
- Get Rid Of The DNI Conservative blogger Elise Cooper demands it. "According to former FBI and CIA officials the DNI and NCTC are redundant, unnecessary bureaucracies. A retired CIA case officer summarized everyone’s feelings when he said that 'these agencies add more and more people who know less and less. Anytime you add another level of bureaucracy you multiply the inefficiency.'"
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.