Some people have claimed that Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair deserves much of the blame for intelligence failures associated with the Fort Hood, Christmas Day and Times Square terrorist attacks and that this was the reason he recently was forced to resign.
I categorically disagree with such a claim, and salute Mr. Blair as a consummate public servant who dedicated much of his professional life to the safety and defense of our great nation. As DNI, he pushed for openness, transparency and the participation of the congressional intelligence committees in conducting intelligence oversight. He will be missed.
So what went wrong, and why was Director Blair forced out? I believe two serious intelligence failures are responsible.
The first failure involves the incredible mishandling of national security and intelligence by the Obama Administration. Director Blair was cut off at every turn by a White House and an attorney general that have tried to treat terrorism as a law-enforcement problem. The worst example of this came in the hours after the Christmas Day bombing when the Obama Administration did not bother to consult with Blair before Mirandizing the bomber.
Blair also has been blamed for the Obama Administration’s rampant politicization of national security and outright disregard for congressional intelligence oversight. I know from working closely with Director Blair that such criticism is entirely unjustified and that he was micromanaged and sidelined by the White House. 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 to have a rational idea among Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan—and he’s the one the President let go.
The second intelligence failure concerns the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which clearly is not working the way the 9/11 Commission or Congress intended. We obviously need a DNI to force our 16 intelligence agencies to share information and cooperate with each other on time sensitive national security threats. The intelligence failures related to the Fort Hood shooting, the Christmas Day bombing and the Times Square bombing indicate that our intelligence agencies are still not cooperating the way they should be.
This problem predated Director Blair and affected his two predecessors. While Congress included flexibility for the President to develop and establish the office of the DNI, both this administration and the last failed to do so. Moreover, instead of the lean coordination office Congress intended the Office of the DNI to be, it has become a large bureaucracy that has lost focus from its mission of making sure intelligence agencies share information and cooperate.
The Obama Administration has its work cut out for it to repair our national security apparatus. Its attempt to deal with radical Jihadist terrorism with lawyers and high-profile presidential speeches instead of a solid counterterrorism strategy enacted with the full support of our intelligence professionals was a serious error. Fortunately, there is time to recover from this mistake.
President Obama must shore up the Office of the Director of National Intelligence since its effectiveness is a product of the degree of support the DNI receives from the President. Mr. Obama must order his intelligence agency heads and cabinet members—especially the attorney general—to cooperate with the DNI. The President must also define the important but narrow intelligence-sharing mission of the DNI. To ensure the next DNI gets the job done, the President must insist that all intelligence agencies recognize this mission.
I am sorry Dennis Blair had to go through the chaos he did as DNI. He was in an impossible position and did not deserve this. It is my hope that the next DNI will succeed because the President takes the necessary steps to fix our national security apparatus and the DNI’s office so the next DNI can succeed.