On James Clapper and Stephen Cambone

In yesterday's Night Beat, I wrote that the five words that folks are using to encapsulate why Congress and others are uncomfortable with Gen. James Clapper Jr. (Ret.)'s potential ascension to the post of Director of National Intelligence are: "He Was Stephen Cambone's deputy."

This requires a bit of an explanation. From 2001 to 2006, Clapper was the head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, functionally reporting from 2003 to Cambone, who was the first undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.

The perception that Clapper was Cambone's deputy is one that assumes that Clapper and Cambone saw eye-to-eye on policy, and, without an explanation of Clapper's role, would make it seem that Clapper was responsible for the detention/interrogation/intelligence policies that Cambone and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pursued.

But Clapper, as NGA head, had no role in those policies. The director of NGA runs the NGA. The effort to tag Clapper as a disciple of Cambone is based simply on guilt by association. Indeed, Clapper was removed from his post as NGA chair because he testified publicly that he would not mind if his agency directly reported to the Director of National Intelligence, rather than to Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy.

So -- to conclude -- Clapper supported the idea of a strong DNI. And he didn't get along with Don Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone.

Now ... how does this account for the public opposition from members of the congressional intelligence committees? The allegation here is that Clapper has been less than forthcoming with Congress in private briefings. This may or may not be true. The most recent point of tension was Clapper's closed-door testimony after the Ft. Hood massacre, where he had several pointed exchanges over the military's counterintelligence gathering policies with Rep. Hoekstra and other members.