Obama to Nominate Clapper for DNI Tomorrow

President Obama intends to nominate Gen. James Clapper (Ret)., the current undersecretary of defense for intelligence, as Director of National Intelligence. 

Pending weather, the announcement will be made in the Rose Garden tomorrow. Clapper would be the four DNI since the position was created five years ago to oversee the intelligence community's 16 agencies.  (The announcement could slip to early next week if the weather does not cooperate.)

He is a former Air Force intelligence officer who rose to head the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency before he was forced out by the Bush Administration over his support for a strong DNI position. Clapper was no fan of an instruction given by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the first USD(I), Stephen Cambone, giving him "direction, control and authority" over the National Security Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency -- the "national" in those agency's names were there for a reason.  Clapper was rehired as the second USDI after Cambone resigned in 2007, reflecting a chance of consensus about intelligence within the Bush Administration. He spent the intervening period at a defense contractor. Clapper's current boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has not moved to rescind the instruction about the NSA and NGA.

Clapper has had some tense relationships with members of Congress, particularly Rep. Peter Hoekstra, whose top intelligence aide said today that Clapper's nomination would not fix problems within the intelligence community. Other members of Congress are concerned about Clapper's willingness to brief them on key developments.

Clapper has deep relationships across the intelligence community, and is friendly with senior managers at the Central Intelligence Agency, which will look forward to working cooperatively with him. He's also demonstrated a willingness to change his mind; he was initially opposed to the consolidation of the Pentagon's imagery intelligence analysis units, but later, when he was put in charge of those units, he became a strong advocate and firm believer.

As USDI, Clapper oversees the expanding and aggressive defense intelligence establishment. His confirmation hearings will be very interesting. He'll be asked about the Defense Intelligence Agency's interrogation programs in Afghanistan.  Will he have the authority to train and equip the new High Value Interrogation Group that's deployed in terrorism emergencies? Will he provide proper oversight for the Defense Department's more secretive intelligence gathering and exploitation capacities?

Clapper was recommended to President Obama by Secretary Gates.

Clapper's likely replacement as USDI will be Michael Vickers, a former CIA officer who is now the assistant secretary of defense for low intensity conflict, special operations and interdependent capabilities.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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