Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 6:33 PM ET, 05/20/2010

Blair walks the plank for everybody's mistakes

By Jeff Stein

In the end, it’s the manager who gets fired, not the star player.

And so it was that Michael Leiter held onto his job as head of the National Counterterrorism Center, which was scorched by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) this week, and Dennis Blair, his boss, lost his.

If Leiter didn’t know what the NCTC’s job was six years after it was created, as the SSCI reported, it wasn’t his fault, it was Blair’s.

The fact is, nobody is going shed many tears as the director of national intelligence walks off the plank. There’s not a wet eye in the House, or the Senate, from the looks of the statements coming out.

But the former admiral had been in bad odor for some time, and not just at the White House. He picked stupid fights, and worse, lost.

It may be an old story now about how Blair tried to show Leon Panetta who was boss by making a stab at taking away the CIA’s traditional prerogative to name overseas station chiefs.

Old, but not forgotten, in the intelligence agencies the DNI only nominally controls.

After a messy fight with Panetta with le tout Washington at ringside, Blair lost.

Then there was that ugly business about Leiter and his holiday skiing vacation as the underwear bomber came down on that Northwest flight in Detroit on Christmas Day, setting off brief fears of another Sept. 11 in the making.

Leiter was at his desk in the NCTC, it turned out, on Christmas Day, and only left for the slopes -- a divorced father off with his 7-year-old son -- the next day, at the urging of Blair and White House national security officials, who assured him they could stay in touch by secure phone if he were needed.

Leither was clueless to stay away for six days, but if Blair cleared him to go on a blithe skiing holiday, he should have stood up for his underling as the ridicule grew.

Theoretically, of course, the admiral was right about naming station chiefs.

But Washington doesn’t run on theory, it runs on power, and the DNI under Blair was like an Energizer Bunny with no batteries.


“It’s not an issue of more authority but more support,” Blair nearly whined in an April speech that was billed as a big event but fell flat.

To many of us there, he just didn’t seem all that smart, or savvy. It's not hard to imagine the White House brainiacs snickering behind his back.

But Blair and his predecessors have had plenty of support -- i.e., warm fuzzies -- from their respective White Houses. What they have never had is authority, over the spy agency budgets, which renders them impotent.

In other words, Blair had it backwards.

Even he seemed to know his days were numbered back in April. He’d opened his speech by saying he had “some breaking news: There is going to be a new DNI very soon.”

Everybody froze.

“Donovan McNabb," he jibed.

Groans and nervous titters all around.

Well, he got it half right.

By Jeff Stein  | May 20, 2010; 6:33 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Backchannel Chatter: More on the ‘White Talib’
Next: Backchannel Chatter: Leiter makes light of ski-gate

Comments

Blair has learned the hard way that jurisdictional turf wars trump all other considerations in Washington, DC even 9/11/2001 and two ongoing wars. Another good man down and the empty suits and their political mentors continue with business as usual.

Posted by: johnplover1 | May 20, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry to say but what could he expect? A man who lived the honorable world of the US Navy joining forces with the Obama crowd. He was clueless.

Posted by: Whitt1 | May 20, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

To quote the Queens: Another one bites the dust..


Posted by: AMQ1 | May 20, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Actually kind of surprising Blair hung around this long. The station chief rebellion would have been the right issue to quit over.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 20, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

No self respecting individual is going to accept the next nomination for DNI. How can anyone carry out this job's responsibilities without the authority.

If Panetta is continues to be the de facto person in charge of the intel community, they should just make him DNI.

Posted by: reston75 | May 21, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Why would anyone in his right mind want to serve the $^%& amateur incompetent clown Odumbo, and his cabal of appeasers?

Posted by: LarryG62 | May 21, 2010 7:27 AM | Report abuse

We should not care that Leiter fancies self as whiz kid, and, Blair took the fall for him. He needs to be fired, too; long overdue for his cluelessness about his own agency. in December, and before.
Before he goes, Blair should also comment on the percentage of Agency ops officers who are based in CONUS. This is something Panetta should also be explaining, if he can. If not, he should ride out of town, too.

Posted by: axolotl | May 21, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

In re.: Leiter's ski trip:

If Leiter's XO couldn't handle the job, he/she shouldn't have been the XO.

The reality of it is that one bureaucrat more or less wouldn't have stopped the nutcase.

What the intelligence field needs is someone like Gen. Donovan running it.

Posted by: rmlwj1 | May 21, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The Executive Branch, particularly the IC (in which I served in a senior role),is all about the checkbook and who controls (and uses) it. If ODNI had control of checkbooks, it could have directed the funding of particular activities (such as who went overseas).

Add to the fact that ADM Blair (an admirable man with a long record of wonderful service) had little experience in the battlespace called D.C. -- a key requirement that anyone with some common sense should have seen.

I agree, only a narcissist or fool would accept that job -- with its current limitations -- and hope to be "successful".

Posted by: hossra | May 21, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Any directorial position that has no budget control over those being directed has NO control, period.

Eliminate the job.

Posted by: flintston | May 21, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"...as the underwear bomber came down on that Northwest flight in Detroit on Christmas Day, setting off brief fears..."

i mean COME ON!!!

that is a show stopper.

Brief fears... underwear bomber...
get it? get it?

Posted by: gconrads | May 21, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

OR WAS IT THOSE MULTI-AGENCY FUSION CENTER 'TORTURE TOWERS' AND COMMUNITY-BASED VIGILATISM?

White House ire and consternation over fed fusion center "programs" of community based vigilanism, financial sabotage and silent microwave irradiation of U.S. citizens deemed to be "dissidents" and undesirables...

...could THAT be what really did in Denny Blair?

These articles are believed to have come to the personal attention of key White House staff:

http://nowpublic.com/world/u-s-silently-tortures-americans-cell-tower-microwaves
http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america
OR NowPublic.com/scrivener re: "U.S. Censors Net Political Speech of 'Targeted' Americans"

Posted by: scrivener50 | May 22, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

(re-post to correct spelling errors apparently inserted by rogue fusion center "man in the middle attack" real-time surveillance censors...)

OR WAS IT THOSE MULTI-AGENCY FUSION CENTER 'TORTURE TOWERS' AND COMMUNITY-BASED VIGILANTISM?

White House ire and consternation over fed fusion center "programs" of community based vigilantism, financial sabotage and silent microwave irradiation of U.S. citizens deemed to be "dissidents" and undesirables...

...could THAT be what really did in Denny Blair?

These articles are believed to have come to the personal attention of key White House staff:

http://nowpublic.com/world/u-s-silently-tortures-americans-cell-tower-microwaves
http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america
OR NowPublic.com/scrivener re: "U.S. Censors Net Political Speech of 'Targeted' Americans"

Posted by: scrivener50 | May 22, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company