President Obama Hits a Wall of Reality
It hasn’t been a good couple of days for the President. Violence in Afghanistan continues to spread in the wake of a new American commitment; the Iraqi Government has just barred over 500 predominately Sunni candidates from participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections; and Iran has formally rejected the U.N.’s nuclear offer after stonewalling for three months.
Domestically, the ranks of the unemployed- while improved from the past year- are still stuck at an astounding 10 percent. Obama’s health-care bill remains deadlocked in Congress, and the most liberal state in the country (Massachusetts) just elected a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s legendary Senate seat.
Just when you think that things could not get any worse for the Obama administration, the Director of National Intelligence (Dennis Blair) makes a fool out of himself and the White House in front of Congress over the basics of terrorism policy. In a direct contradiction to President Obama’s strategy, Blair commented to the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee that the “underpants bomber” should have been questioned by a special interrogation unit instead of the FBI.
As expected, this immediately unleashed a wave of Republican criticism towards the White House’s handling of the terrorist suspect. In what is sure to be another weapon for the Republican Party come November 2010, Blair’s remarks demonstrate the loose partnership and terrible communication skills between the nation’s top intelligence czar and the nation’s Commander-in-Chief (not exactly a good trait in a time of war). Disagreements over detainees and enemy combatants are only two problems in a much wider list.
Common sense leads you to believe that Director Blair’s remark was more of a Freudian slip than a deep opposition to White House policy. But even if this is the case, one has to wonder whether Director Blair’s “accidental” slip of the tongue is a microcosm to what the intelligence community has been thinking all along. Perhaps intelligence officials truly believe that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be tried through a military tribunal rather than a civilian court. Heck, if I was an agent, I would lobby for a tribunal as well; valuable tidbits of information on future plots would be obtained without civilian law frustrating the interrogation process.
Are low and mid-level officials in the CIA, NSA, and NCTC flabbergasted over the way the White House is handling the Al’Qaeda suspect? Judging by the administration’s immediate outrage, perhaps this is not so farfetched.
Just as the Washington bureaucracy and the U.S. Military have been at odds over foreign-policy leaks, the bureaucratic-intelligence relationship could be at odds over public policy. This is obviously all coming from the gut- there is no evidence to back up my claims- but gut reactions are often conducive to reality.
Either Dennis Blair has a serious problem with the way the Obama administration is conducting the War on Terrorism, or he misspoke in the most blatant way possible. Either way, he certainly embarrassed the White House in front of a powerful Congressional committee. Even if Blair retracts his statement, Republicans now have another piece of ammunition to work with for the 2010 midterm elections.
**Comments courtesy of Newsweek’s Declassified**
-Daniel R. DePetris