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Senate Intel Committee: No Clapper; Yea Panetta

In a statement she put out yesterday afternoon, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sure sounded like she didn’t want defense intelligence chief James Clapper to take over for the departing Dennis Blair as the next director of national intelligence. (“It will be important that any nominee is not beholden to the Pentagon’s interests…”) But she wasn’t explicit about it. Josh Rogin gets her on the record about her opposition to Clapper’s prospective nomination — and way more.

“I have concerns about Clapper as a choice,” committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, told The Cable in an interview, saying that the widely expected nomination of Clapper, who now is under secretary of defense for intelligence, would give the military too much control of the intelligence community. “The best thing for intelligence is to have a civilian in charge. The elbows are less sharp.”

In a bit of irony that surely warms hearts at Langley, Feinstein’s choice for the nation’s top intelligence post is — wait for it — Leon Panetta, the CIA director whose nomination Feinstein initially fought hard to scuttle. I suppose you could be cute and suggest that Feinstein secretly just wants the bureaucratic meatgrinder that is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to finally grind Panetta’s flesh and bones. But most likely she’s just been impressed by his job as CIA director.

And so has Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the committee’s GOP vice chairman. Rogin further reports that there’s no daylight between the committee leaders on who they want for Blair’s job. Panetta is “the only one who has the clout to make it work,” Bond told Rogin, “I have reservations about [Clapper] in that job.”

Does Clapper’s (possible, prospective, never official) candidacy survive public opposition from the leadership of the Senate committee that will have to approve him?

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