Page 2 of 2   <      

Dennis C. Blair to resign as director of national intelligence

Dennis Blair has announced he is resigning as National Intelligence Director. The announcement came after a meeting with the President, where officials say it became clear that the President had lost confidence in Blair.

Beyond such blunt statements, the timing of Blair's departure suggests that the White House had lost confidence in him after the agencies he oversees failed to detect relatively unsophisticated terrorist plots. The Christmas Day incident involved a Nigerian man who is accused of smuggling an explosive onboard the aircraft in his underwear. Earlier this month, a naturalized U.S. citizen apparently trained by a Pakistani terrorist group parked a vehicle packed with explosives in the middle of Times Square.

Blair often seemed sidelined by other key members of Obama's national security team. Blair lost a public turf fight with CIA Director Leon Panetta over who had the power to appoint the top U.S. intelligence representative in countries overseas. John O. Brennan, the president's main counterterrorism adviser, is a CIA veteran who has assumed the role of de facto intelligence chief within the White House, often serving as the administration's public face on national security issues.

Blair attended a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening. But it was Panetta who accompanied national security adviser James L. Jones this week on a trip to Pakistan to press the government in Islamabad to expand its military campaign against insurgent groups.

David Gompert, who was recently named Blair's principal deputy, will become acting director until the Senate confirms a replacement.

Other members of Obama's security team have also been singled out for criticism in recent months, including Attorney Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael E. Leiter. But both are seen as having stronger political connections to the White House than Blair.

Blair was perceived as holding a particularly unmanageable job. His two predecessors also departed after relatively brief tenures in which they struggled to prevail in turf battles with other agencies and to implement changes.

Blair's resignation comes just days after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a scathing report on U.S. spy agencies' handling of the Christmas Day attack. The report documented 14 distinct failures to take steps that might have prevented the attempted bombing.

Blair responded to the report with a statement saying that the intelligence community is "aggressively focused on potential threats," but acknowledging that "institutional and technological barriers remain."

Staff writers Karen DeYoung, Peter Finn, Anne E. Kornblut, Ellen Nakashima and Michael D. Shear and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company