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June 04, 2010

Obama to name Pentagon's Clapper as DNI

President Obama tomorrow will nominate Ret. Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr. as the next Director of National Intelligence, an administration official with knowledge of the president's plans confirmed this evening. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make a statement ahead of the formal announcement.

Clapper is undersecretary of defense for intelligence and also serves as the DNI's principal adviser on defense. He has nearly five decades of experience in intelligence. If confirmed, he would replace Dennis Blair, who resigned under pressure after clashes with CIA chief Leon Panetta and other administration officials.

Some lawmakers and intelligence analysts have expressed concern that the clashes may persist regardless of leadership until the five-year-old DNI post becomes better defined or more empowered. Clapper would be the fourth person to hold the post in that short time.

Clapper's resume is extensive and he is well regarded by many in Washington.Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., issued a statement saying he knows Clapper to be "a strong defense intelligence professional who would bring decades of valuable experience to the job" and be "up to the task."

Nonetheless, Clapper must convince some skeptics. Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence panel, said Friday in a statement that "at this time I'm not inclined to support him," saying Clapper "lacks the necessary clout with the President, has proven to be less than forthcoming with Congress, and has recently blocked our efforts to empower the DNI" and that he feared Clapper would allow the U.S. anti-terror strategy to be run from the Department of Justice and the White House.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that whoever is confirmed as the next DNI "must be a strong leader and needs the full support of the President to be successful. I hope that the President will empower and back the next DNI so that he can succeed."

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