Obama’s Intelligence Gap

This week’s issue of Newsweek has a couple interesting pieces in it.  Most obvious is the long cover story about the Bush Admin’s level 4 shitstorm raining down on the whistleblower who revealed the warrantless wiretap program (the patently illegal one).  But there is also this brief report on the difficulty Obama and his transition team have been having finding people to helm the intelligence agencies.  There doesn’t seem to have been much progress since I mentioned the problem three weeks ago, except perhaps that John Brennan is now handling the intelligence dossier for the Obama transition, after pulling himself from consideration for head of CIA the day before Thanksgiving.

Barriers To Intelligence
By Mark Hosenball
Newsweek, 12/22/2008 (12/13/2008 online)

The Bush Administration’s rough treatment of captured terror suspects has bedeviled President-elect Barack Obama’s efforts to fill key posts on his intelligence team, as nearly every qualified candidate is linked, however remotely, to the practices. But according to multiple sources close to his transition team, Obama is circling nearer on some picks.

The head of Obama’s intel transition team, John Brennan, was the leading candidate for CIA chief until he was slammed by liberal bloggers for not doing enough while serving as a top CIA and anti-terror official to oppose Bush. Current CIA chief Michael Hayden is keen to stay on for a while in an Obama administration, and intel officials say that would be good for agency morale. But Obama voted against Hayden’s confirmation in 2006 — and other Democrats believe he defended Bush policies too zealously. Several people close to the Obama transition, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive deliberations, say the leading candidate to replace Hayden is his deputy, Stephen Kappes, who was No. 2 in the CIA’s covert-ops division from 2002 to 2004, which means he was almost surely involved in interrogation policy. But Kappes’s backers say he was working on counterintel issues — uncovering moles — when the CIA set up its “secret prison” network. If Kappes’s star falls, other CIA candidates are said to include another former senior spy, Mary Margaret Graham, and former congressman Tim Roemer, an intel-reform advocate.

The sources say the top candidate for National Intelligence director — a post established by Congress after 9/11, but whose powers are still being debated — is retired Admiral Dennis Blair. A former chief of U.S. Pacific forces, Blair has broad military command experience — a plus for Obama—and he also has no obvious connection to controversial Bush policies. Obama could please his base with another possible pick: Maureen Baginski, an Obama intel-team member who spent years at NSA and joined the FBI after 9/11, is being mentioned as a candidate to become the first civilian and first female director of NSA. A spokeswoman for Obama declined to comment on personnel deliberations.

 

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