Today, with much ballyhoo, President-elect Obama announced what was touted as his national security team.Â Much of the team had been telegraphed, some loudly.Â (Let us pause, just for a moment, to consider the fact that Rush Limbaugh actually considers Clinton as Secretary of State as a “brilliant stroke” by Obama.)
But while today’s Chicago press conference formally announced Obama’s picks for National Security Advisor (a Marine with the slightly unnerving name of Jim Jones) and director Homeland Security, conspicuously absent from the dais was a Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
For the 50-60 years prior to 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act and, specifically, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the head of all US intelligence operations — at least ostensibly — was the head of the CIA, whose official title was Director of Central Intelligence (note absence of the word “Agency”).Â Now, by law, the role of “intelligence czar” for the president is executed by the Director of National Intelligence, who has his own (burgeoning) staff.Â Technically, CIA now answers to the DNI, not directly to the President.
The ABC News online coverage today noted “Obama Mum on Key Intelligence Posts”, while also mentioning “Democratic sources” recently saying Obama’s current leading candidate for DNI is Admiral Dennis C. Blair (ret.), formerly Commander-in-Chief of US Pacific Command.Â The two have reportedly met in Chicago, but nothing is yet official and all concerned are neither confirming nor denying, in the usual fashion.
The current DNI is Mike McConnell (not to be confused with Attorney General Mike Mukasey, who recently collapsed during a speech to the arch-conservative Federalist Society (official DOJ transcript), shortly after Washington State Supreme Court justice Richard Sanders stood up and shouted “Tyrant! You’re a tyrant!”). McConnell was preceded as DNI by John “I love Death Squads” Negroponte.
Parenthetically, the same ABC News piece also mentions in a postscript that among the many people bending Obama’s ear on national security lately is Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Advisor for Bush I (1989-1993) and Ford (1974-1977). To Scowcroft’s credit, he did publicly oppose the then-supposedly “undecided” invasion of Iraq in an August, 2002 op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal.Â But this will undoubtedly be fodder for the leftie bloggers already critical of Obama’s middle path.
In related news, President-elect Obama’s top pick to head the CIA, John Brennan, chose the day before Thanksgiving to suddenly withdraw himself from consideration because, he said, of mounting hubbub about his possible role in Bush administration policies on interrogration and detention.