Obama names retired general new intelligence chief

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama named retired general James Clapper as his new director of national intelligence on Saturday, selecting a defense veteran to coordinate action between numerous U.S. intelligence agencies.

Obama, who announced the appointment at the White House, urged the Senate to confirm Clapper swiftly, a nod to resistance from some Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are worried about Clapper’s close ties to the Pentagon.

Clapper, now undersecretary of defense for intelligence, would replace Dennis Blair, who was ousted last month amid mounting security concerns following a failed car bomb attempt in New York’s Times Square on May 1 and the botched attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. The director of national intelligence oversees the agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA.

“Our intelligence community needs to work as one integrated team that produces quality, timely and accurate intelligence. And let’s be honest: this is a tough task,” Obama said.

“But this will be Jim’s core mission. He is eminently qualified, and he has my complete confidence and support.”

Clapper is a former Air Force general who retired from the military in 1995 after a 32-year career. He worked for Defense Secretary Robert Gates during the George W. Bush administration and remained at the Pentagon after Obama took office in 2009.

The post Clapper is taking over was created by Bush in 2004 in a reorganization of the intelligence bureaucracy to address shortcomings in interagency collaboration exposed by the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Obama said U.S. intelligence had improved since 2001 but more needed to be done.

“As we saw in the failed attack over Detroit, we need to do even better. We need to constantly evolve and adapt and improve,” he said.

OPPOSITION

Clapper’s background has rattled rather than reassured some of the lawmakers whose support he will need for confirmation.

Republican Senator Kit Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Friday, ahead of the official announcement, that he was not inclined to support Clapper, who Bond said had blocked efforts to empower the position he is now being asked to fill.

Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Obama’s nomination put “yet another brick in the wall” between Congress and the administration on national security.

“Mr. Clapper has blocked my communications with elements of the intelligence community, and he has been evasive and slow to respond to questions and letters from members of the committee,” Hoekstra said in a statement on Saturday. “It is unacceptable and makes America less safe.”

Obama said he expected Clapper to be confirmed soon.

“Not surprisingly, the Senate has voted to confirm Jim for senior positions on four separate occasions, and each time it has done so overwhelmingly,” Obama said.

“Given the importance of this position, the urgent threats to our nation and Jim’s unique experience, I urge the Senate to do so again and as swiftly as possible.”

Clapper said he would work for Obama’s and lawmakers’ support.

“I am humbled, honored and daunted by the magnitude of the responsibilities of the position of the DNI,” he said on Saturday, speaking after the president in the White House Rose Garden. “It’s a job that cannot be done without your support and that of the Congress, and I intend to earn that support from both.”

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(Editing by Jackie Frank)

Obama names retired general new intelligence chief