Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

President Obama Hits a Wall of Reality

Posted in United States by Dan on January 21, 2010

Tension in the White House

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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



8 Responses

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  1. chazmon1954 said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I would rather see the truth come out and the chips fall where they may instead of having a “fall guy”. You know what, people, we made an error in judgement and now we are learning from that error….would be a more comforting response from the White House and let the people know that we are correcting it. But, then again, that is too simple.

  2. docallen001 said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:01 am

    How does one defend a person who says a unit should have been used that does not exist? I say if true, off with his head or at least he should be history.

  3. midnytestryker said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Blair is apparently not intelligent enough to know what Obama had sought in HIG. Pretty stupid to say a prisoner should be brought before a commission that doesn’t exist and wouldn’t refer to him anyway. Blair should be a fall guy. People say they want responibility in government. Blair shouod admit he is totally responsible and eiter quit or get canned.Like those who didn’t connect the dots on the bomber- they should be canned. If you screwed up royally in your job you’d get canned, too.

  4. smithjeffr said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Sounds like the right hand does not know what the left handis doing in this administration. Regardless of the status of this High-Value Interrogation Group, Abdulmutallab should have been turned over to the military as an enemy combatant. The civilian justice system is not the right place to deal with these cases. And for those who would bring up the fact that civilian courts is how the Bush administration handled the Richard Wright case, I would point out the Wright is a US citizen not a foreign national. Attempting to prosecute terrorism suspects in criminal courts would damage national security or result in difficulty getting convictions. This is because much of the intelligence information that needs to be used to gain a conviction is very sensitive and revealing the information would give away too much about the sources of the intelligence. We are at war and enemy combatants such as Abdulmutallab should be dealt with by the military, not the cvilian justice system.

  5. tjs723 said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Blair shoulod be fired immediately. He made remarks that he knew were false when he made them!! His intent obviously was to initiate political controvery!

  6. bosn said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I guess the real question should be:”How much intellegence of any type by any agency do you expect to get from am individual trained for the purpose of blowing himself up, and taking an aircraft with him in the process?” This is akin to trying to get information about all the bank failures from the security guards in the lobby.

  7. fixitup said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Makes me want to clean out and stock the air raid shelter dad built in the early 50’s………….where the hell do they get these people. Apparently, Mr. Blair and his friends couldn’t find their asses with a search warrant, let alone a terrorist who was hand delivered by the perpetrator’s own daddy. Get rid of the dumb S.O.B. Start with Janet Napolitano and work our way down. She’s hiding in Mexico I hear.

  8. siege6529 said, on January 22, 2010 at 12:07 am

    So the party of small government says we need another government agency to keep us safe from terrorists? Why do we have the NSA, the TSA, the FBI, the CIA, and the DHS? We can’t ever be 100% safe, especially when it comes to flights coming in from sovereign countries.

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