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Panetta and Blair Disputing Who Has Authority Over Foreign Intelligence Chiefs

T.I. has prudent advice for conflict mediation. Marc Ambinder reports that the dispute over whether CIA Director Leon Panetta or Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair should have the authority to appoint and remove intelligence chiefs in foreign stations — historically a CIA prerogative — is going to Vice President Joe Biden for a resolution. According to Ambinder, White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan, a former senior CIA official, didn’t come up with an appealing compromise. Biden is literally going to resolve this.

Here’s an argument for the DNI’s control, as related by Ambinder:

Reasonably, if the DNI can’t appoint his own representatives, then he has indeed become a glorified presidential briefer.

To which the CIA or the authors of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 creating the DNI would rejoinder that the one of the major goals of the huge intelligence restructuring of the last five years was to formally separate the head of the intelligence community from the operational tasks of intelligence collection and analysis. The 9/11 Commission and others judged that too deep an involvement in those tasks created a dangerous myopia — specifically, the CIA director’s preoccupation with running CIA instead of seeing a broader, community-wide picture was a contributing factor to structural intelligence failures that weakened U.S. defenses against a terrorist attack. I’m not mediating the dispute — I’m no Joe Biden — just explaining some of its background arguments.

Now for Biden to settle T.I. vs. T.I.P.

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