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Dennis Cutler Blair (born February 4, 1947), is the third and current Director of National Intelligence and a retired United States Navy four-star admiral. He was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve in the Obama administration as DNI on 28 January 2009 and took office the next day.

Early years

Blair was born in Kittery, Mainemarker in 1947, and was a 6th generation naval officer and Great-Great-Great Grandson of Confederate Chief Engineer William Price Williamson of North Carolina, credited with first suggesting that the hull of the USS Merrimack be used to build the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. He attended St. Andrew's Schoolmarker (1964), and, as a classmate of Oliver North and James H. Webb, graduated from the United States Naval Academymarker in 1968.

Naval career



Following his graduation from the Naval Academy, he was assigned to the guided missile destroyer . He then received a Rhodes Scholarship, majoring in Russian studies at Oxford Universitymarker, attending during the same time future president Bill Clinton studied there (although President Clinton did not complete the program). He served as a White House Fellow from 1975-76 with Wesley Clark and Marshall Carter, who later became chairman of the New York Stock Exchangemarker.

Blair spent over 34 years in the United States Navy. He served on guided missile destroyers in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and commanded the Kitty Hawk Battle Group.

His last job in the military was as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, the highest-ranking officer over most of the U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region. Previously, he was Director of the Joint Staff in the Office of the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and served in budget and policy positions on several major Navy staffs and the National Security Council staff. He was also the first Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support. He retired from the Navy in 2002.

Reports of disobeying orders

According to journalist Alan Nairn, Blair disobeyed orders from civilians in the Clinton Administration during the 1999 East Timorese crisis during his tenure as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. Amid growing international concern over violence against the independence movement in Indonesianmarker-occupied East Timormarker, Blair was ordered to meet with General Wiranto, the commander of the Indonesian military, and to tell him to shut down the pro-Indonesia militia. According to Nairn, two days after the Liquiçá Church Massacre, Blair failed to deliver this message; instead he presented Wiranto with an offer of military assistance and a personal invitation to be Blair's guest in Hawaiimarker. Consequently, Wiranto’s "forces increased the Timor killings". During his confirmation hearing as Director of National Intelligence, Blair responded to the accusations: "In our conversations with leaders of Indonesia, both military and civilian, we decried and said that the torture and killing that was being conducted by paramilitary groups and some military groups in East Timor had to stop"; "those who say that I was somehow carrying out my own policy or saying things that were not in accordance with American policy are just flat wrong."

Conflict of interest

His membership on the board of directors of EDO Corporation, a subcontractor for the F-22 Raptor fighter program, and ownership of its stock was raised as a potential conflict of interest after the Institute for Defense Analyses issued a study that endorsed a three-year contract for the program. Blair told the Washington Post, "My review was not affected at all by my association with EDO Corp., and the report was a good one." He originally chose not to recuse himself because he claimed his link to EDO was not of sufficient "scale" to require it, but subsequently resigned from the EDO board to avoid any misperceptions.

However, on December 20, 2006 the Washington Post reported that the US Department of Defense Inspector General's investigation into the affair found Blair had violated IDA's Conflict of Interest rules but did not influence the result of IDA's study. Blair observed, "with all due respect to the Inspector General, I find it hard to understand how I could be criticized for violating conflict of interest standards when I didn't have any influence on the study."

Decorations and notability

His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters (4 awards), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal with one star (2 awards), as well as numerous other campaign and service awards. He has been decorated by the governments of Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and Taiwan.



Blair is somewhat renowned in U.S. Naval circles for attempting to water ski behind his destroyer the when he was the Skipper.

Retirement

After retiring from the Navy, Blair held the John M. Shalikashvili Chair in National Security Studies at The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) and the General of the Army Omar N. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at Dickinson Collegemarker and the U.S.marker Army War Collegemarker. He was also the President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a U.S. Government think tank in the Washington, D.C.marker area focused on national security. He also served as Deputy Executive Director of the Project on National Security Reform.

Director of National Intelligence

Nomination

Dennis C. Blair became the third Director of National Intelligence on January 29, 2009.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network opposed Blair's nomination for Director of National Intelligence, saying "His actions demonstrate the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military’s behavior and his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day."

During his confirmation, Director Blair indicated he did not support a domestic intelligence agency separate from the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker. He has also promised to end special interrogation regimes and believes the Intelligence Community must conduct analysis on opportunities as well as threats.

Appointment of Intelligence Community Representatives

In May 2009, Director Blair attempted to exercise his authority to appoint an intelligence officer as his representative abroad, only to have CIA Director Leon Panetta counter his memo with a memo of his own. Former DNI Mike McConnell and the first DNI, John Negroponte, were both unable to take this community management function away from the CIA, which has been under the CIA's jurisdiction since 1947. According to news reports, President Bush had to issue an executive order to give the DNI his congressionally mandated powers to force the CIA and other intelligence agencies to respond to the DNI's demands. A number of government executives agree that the DNI should not have to go to the President each time the DNI wants to implement guidance. Late July 2009, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence backed the DNI, asking the CIA to give "prompt adherence" to the DNI's decision.

However, on November 10, 2009, the White House decided in the CIA's favor, granting them to continue to select the chief U.S. intelligence officer in each country where the U.S. has a presence.

Notes

  1. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Statement by the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, 9 January 2009
  2. Davis, William C., Duel Between The First Ironclads.
  3. Oxford Journal; Whereas, He Is an Old Boy, If a Young Chief, Honor Him. New York Times.
  4. Alan Nairn. "US Complicity in Timor". The Nation, September 27, 1999
  5. Alan Nairn. "Breaking News: US Intel Nominee Lied About '99 Massacre. US, Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting. " News and Comment. January 22, 2009
  6. Sen. Dianne Feinstein Holds A Hearing On The Nomination Of Dennis Blair To Be Director Of National Intelligence. January 22, 2009. Excerpts from Transcript of Confirmation Hearing.
  7. [1]
  8. [2]
  9. [3]
  10. [4]
  11. ODNI, Biography, 30 January 2009
  12. Washington Post, Intelligence Pick Fields Panel's Questions, 28 January 2009
  13. New York Times, Statement of Dennis C. Blair before The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate, 22 January 2009 (see video, 00:30-01:08)
  14. Washington Post, DNI Nominee Blair Talks of Opportunities for Statecraft, 26 January 2009
  15. ODNI, DNI Workforce Message, 30 January 2009
  16. ODNI, Media Roundtable with Mr. Dennis Blair, pg. 5, 21, 26 March 2009
  17. David Ignatius, Intelligence Turf Has to be Ended, 14 June 2009
  18. CIA wins turf battle over DNI: But is it over?
  19. HSToday, DNI, CIA Turf War Highlights Recurring Issue of DNI's Authority, 28 May 2009
  20. CIA wins turf battle over DNI: But is it over?


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