Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, asked to resign
In one of the few cases in DC of responsibility being attached to failure, Blair has been asked to resign in the wake of the failure of intelligence agencies, especially the National Counterterrorism Center which he oversees, to foil the Christmas day bomber and the more recent Times Square bomber.
The NY Times says of his resignation:
It also fuels new doubts about the success, and wisdom, of the major intelligence overhaul in 2004 that created the spymaster position.
It does more than “fuel new doubts”, it points to two distinct failures in which mass casualty events were avoided only because the bombs themselves failed. But there was more than just the failures going on within the organization established to oversee our intelligence community. Apparently the usual infighting, something most wanted to see eliminated as much as possible, was rampant and, it appears, the CIA won:
Mr. Blair’s relationship with the White House was rocky since the start of the Obama administration, and he fought a rear-guard action against efforts by the Central Intelligence Agency to cut down the size and power of the national intelligence director’s staff. He is the first high-ranking member of the Obama national security team to depart.
Mr. Blair’s departure could strengthen the hand of the C.I.A operatives, who have bristled at directives from Mr. Blair’s office. In recent months, Mr. Blair has been outspoken about reining in the C.I.A.’s covert activities, citing their propensity to backfire and tarnish America’s image.
For the most part, the CIA’s drone fight – and successes – in Pakistan have been the most evident success to date for the administration and given the CIA some weight in the war among the agencies. As the Times notes of Blair’s position:
Yet most intelligence experts agree that the job has been troubled from the start, having little actual power over the operations and budget of a sprawling intelligence infrastructure that the Pentagon and C.I.A. still dominate. The vast majority of America’s annual intelligence budget, nearly $50 billion, is spent on spy satellites and high-tech listening devices under Pentagon control.
Humint – one of the most important and mostly ignored element of intelligence gathering (and noted as such by every board and agency post-9/11 review) apparently continues to be ignored and the walls appear to be just as high as ever between the agencies. Additonally, the usual suspects appear to have the same power and weight as they had pre-9/11. The bureaucrats created a new position, but gave it little power and little aurthority, but plenty of responsibility. The usual results have obtained from such an arrangement.
Meanwhile, we have an nifty new name and acronym for the “war on terror”. Yes, folks, important stuff – it is now called “Countering Violent Extremism” or CVE. I’m sure you’ll sleep better tonight knowing that’s been settled.
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