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Obama to Name Pentagon Official to Intelligence Post


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WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama will nominate Defense Department intelligence chief James Clapper to be the next director of national intelligence, according to administration officials, an appointment likely to meet with resistance on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Obama abruptly fired his first director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, last month. In its search for a new intelligence director, the White House approached a host of current and former national security officials, only to be repeatedly turned down —most notably by Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta—according to several officials familiar with the process.
The intelligence director is nominally responsible for overseeing all 16 U.S. spy agencies, but he has little power to control their budgets and personnel. In addition to managing the intelligence aspects of the Afghanistan troop buildup and the Iraq drawdown, Mr. Clapper will take on a multitude of internal challenges, the largest being the growing perception that the director of national intelligence model is broken.
If confirmed, Mr. Clapper, 69 years old, would be the fourth director in the five years since Congress created the office.

"He's got 45 years of intelligence background," said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. "He's seen it all. He's the right man at the right time."
Mr. Clapper also has to overcome significant skepticism on Capitol Hill. The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, which is responsible for confirming him, have publicly opposed his appointment, favoring a civilian for the role.

But Mr. Clapper, who has spent more than four decades in the spy world, has significant backing among intelligence professionals, who also note that he is the most experienced individual willing to take the job. He came with the strong recommendation of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for whom Mr. Clapper has worked at the Pentagon since the final years of the George W. Bush administration.
"Few people have better qualifications," said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior CIA official. "The problem just remains that the job itself as defined in law is a very difficult job to do."
Another challenge Mr. Clapper will face is gaining swift and frequent access to the president. One problem Mr. Blair had was that the White House's top terrorism adviser, John Brennan, enjoys the ear of the president on intelligence matters, Mr. Lowenthal said.

After taking his current job as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Mr. Clapper immediately began rolling back some of the controversial programs that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had instituted.
One of his earliest moves was to shut a Pentagon database, called Talon, that was supposed to track terrorist threats to military bases but was found to also contain information on antiwar protesters.

Mr. Clapper had planned to leave at the end of the Bush administration and kept a countdown clock to remind himself of his short time left, but when President Barack Obama asked Mr. Gates to stay on at the Pentagon, Mr. Clapper stayed too."I retired the countdown clock—for a while anyway," he told an audience last year at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank. "It is interesting, though, having the last two years of the prior administration and now this one." He added, "I really consider myself apolitical."Mr. Clapper is a Vietnam War veteran and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. "I've officially achieved intelligence geezerdom," he said.In his current job, he oversees all the military-intelligence agencies, and has focused much of his energy during the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan......(Snip)
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