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Kristol: Dennis Blair vs. the Intelligence Community

Fear and loathing at Langley?

8:50 AM, Jan 6, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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A former intelligence officer called my attention to the, as he put it, "creepy" statement Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair issued yesterday:

The Intelligence Community received the President¹s message today ­ we got it, and we are moving forward to meet the new challenges. The system did not catch Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and prevent him from boarding an airliner and entering the United States. We must be able to stop such attempts.

The Intelligence Community has made considerable progress in developing collection and analysis capabilities and improving collaboration, but we need to strengthen our ability to stop new tactics such as the efforts of individual suicide terrorists. The threat has evolved, and we need to anticipate new kinds of attacks and improve our ability to stay ahead of them and protect America.

We can and we must outthink, outwork and defeat the enemy's new ideas. The Intelligence Community will do that as directed by the President, working closely with our nation's entire national security team.

What's creepy is: a) Blair's throwing the intelligence community under the bus while sucking up shamelessly to the president; b) The notion that "individual suicide terrorists" constitute a "new tactic," which—if believed by anyone other than Blair—would make the entire intelligence community look like idiots; c) The implication that the intelligence community has been failing to "outthink, outwork and defeat the enemy's new ideas"—as if the enemy has come up with brilliant "new ideas," and, again, as if the American intelligence community—until and unless spurred on by Denny Blair—are a bunch of dopes; and d) The fact that the lapses that characterized the Christmas terror attack were as much the responsibility of other departments as of the core intelligence agencies.

In fact, the Obama White House—supported by Blair—has consistently overridden the recommendations of the intelligence community in favor of positions taken by Eric Holder's Justice Department, Janet Napolitano, and White House staff (e.g., sending the six detainees to Yemen on Dec. 20 as part of a desperate effort to move toward closing Gitmo, and treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant).

It's hard, I'm told, to overestimate the loathing intelligence operatives feel for Blair—who has never stood up for the operatives in any interagency battle, and indeed has given cover (as a former military man and now as DNI) to the White House as it overrules efforts by Defense Secretary Gates and CIA Director Panetta to resist Holder's and the White House's agenda.