Grave Opposition in Congress to Director of National Intelligence Nomination

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr. was nominated on Saturday to replace Dennis Blair as President Obama’s director of national intelligence (DNI).

Blair stepped down amid clashes with the White House and continued administration security failures that have resulted in a string of terrorist attacks and attempted attacks during Obama’s first 18 months in office.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans tasked with committee oversight of the intelligence community were less than thrilled with the pick.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently voiced opposition to the possibility of a Clapper nod.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Vice Chairman of the committee released a statement Saturday voicing his opposition.

“Unfortunately, with his pick in Jim Clapper as the next DNI, the president has ensured our terror-fighting strategy will continue to be run out of the Department of Justice and White House,” Bond said.  “While Jim has served our nation well, he lacks the necessary clout with the president, has proven to be less than forthcoming with Congress, and has recently blocked our efforts to empower the DNI, which is why at this time I’m not inclined to support him.”

Support from Feinstein and Bond are crucial to the success of hearings on Clapper’s nomination.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and one of the most respected voices on matters of intelligence in Congress also voiced opposition.  His full statement below exposes the gravity of the opposition.

“When the president nominated Leon Panetta to head the CIA, I was the first to back Leon when his nomination seemed to be in trouble. I wish I could say the same for Jim Clapper, but I must join with other congressional intelligence leaders in voicing my opposition to his nomination.  Relations between the White House and Congress on national security matters have fallen to new lows, as evidenced by the recent letter from Senators Feinstein and Bond on the administration’s continued stonewalling on providing information — a letter with which I fully concur. Working with Congress on national security matters isn’t an option, it’s required by law.

“Mr. Clapper has blocked my communications with elements of the intelligence community, and he has been evasive and slow to respond to questions and letters from members of the committee. It is unacceptable and makes America less safe. It puts us as a nation at greater risk.

“At a time when our homeland has faced an ongoing series of terror attacks in the last six months, we need a strong DNI who can lead the intelligence community and who will work with Congress.

“Mr. Clapper does not have the clout or independence to be the voice that provides an alternative to the Obama administration’s prosecute after-the-fact approach to terror. We need a DNI who will ensure that the intelligence community is heard as prominently as the Justice Department, Homeland Security, the Pentagon and even the president’s national security staff, which is trying to micro-manage America’s intelligence agencies from the White House.

“An administration that has continuously proven to be slow to respond and politically tone deaf, has once again proven that it has a tin ear with this nomination. Instead of signaling a new beginning and fresh approach, the president has placed yet another brick in the wall he has built between his administration and Congress on national security.

“The President clearly has the responsibility to appoint the key members of his administration. I am disappointed by this appointment, but if approved I will do my best to work with Mr. Clapper.”