The Night Beat: Clapper Nomination Hits a Snag?

Good evening. Stephen Strasburg's first pitch was a fastball. But it was a ball, not a strike. Thanks for asking.

The Atlantic's election coverage can be found here.

On the Night Beat:

1. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen receives the Asia Society's Public Policy Award tomorrow night on behalf of the armed forces. Expect him to talk about American military responsibilities in the Pacific in the wake of North Korean sinking of South Korean warship. ... President Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Abbas at the White House. ... The Atlantic's Niraj Chokshi onpasses: Tomorrow's  House Science and Tech Cmte hearing "Deluge of Oil Highlights Research and Technology Needs for Effective Cleanup of Oil Spills" will feature Kevin Costner, who has been funding related research for 15 years. ... The Department of the Interior today issued a directive to oil and gas lessees and operators on the Outer Continental Shelf implementing stronger safety requirements that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recommended in his 30-day safety report to the president ... and the Department of Energy released detailed, updated scientific data on the oil spill.

2. The White House's hope for DNI nominee James Clapper's speedy confirmation hit a snag this afternoon when Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kit Bond expressed consternation over a memo that Clapper sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee expressing the DoD's prerogatives on intelligence -- a memo perceived to be opposed to the concept of a DNI. ... A senior administration official said that the memo was titled "INFORMATION PAPER and DISCUSSION DRAFT," and was written in response to an inquiry from the House Armed Services Committee's general counsel as to whether the Secretary of Defense had any concerns about the intelligence portions of the intelligence authorization bill. Clapper's staff checked with the secretary's office and the Pentagon policy folks, and sent the paper in. "It doesn't represent the entire of General Clapper's views on the role of the DNI."

In Clapper's letter, he expressed the view that the DNI no longer required any additional authority and that the community itself would not benefit from more centralization; rather, the DNI would function most effectively if the office were "optimized" and the DNI more effective in using the authorities he already has. "Strong leadership" is essential.

Bottom line: unlike past DNIs, Clapper knows where all the bodies are buried at USDI.

"He also understands the considerable authorities that the DNI possesses already and will not hesitate to assert them," the administration official says.

The view is reflected in an essay Clapper wrote on the DNI's authorities from February 2008, published in The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence.

The White House's bottom line: in wartime, the DNI doesn't need to complicate things, and Congress doesn't need to over-legislate. There is a difference between more authority and USING the authority for the RIGHT things, which (as I've written) the WH thinks Adm. Dennis Blair didn't do.

Clapper canceled a long-planned trip to Asia because the White House wants the Senate to act on his confirmation now.

Though Clapper wants Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his deputy, it won't happen. Flynn wants to stay where is: next to "The Pope," Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in Afghanistan. NB: last night's observation about Flynn's relationship with CIA (or, as he might say, "OGA") requires a clarification. On the ground, where it matters, Flynn gets along with CIA officers and analysts just fine. Many serve on his hand-picked senior staff. But at a high level -- i.e., at the principal level in Washington, Flynn, and the CIA have different conceptions of what defense intelligence should be.

3. The bottom line on: CYBERSECURITY.

The military "gets" network security. Witness SIPRNET, which is a global, all-encompassing military network with NO external access. It's totally secure. And that's why cyberwar will never happen (with good leaders). Want to protect a nuke plant? Close its network entirely. Only dedicated computers, no remote access, no Internet capability. You can't hack into something that doesn't have a point of entry. At that point, cyberwarfare is really just espionage -- people on the inside. And the CIA and FBI are already good at ferreting out moles. It'll require some serious regulation. But who really wants (or needs?) nuclear power plants or traffic lights on the Internet? Today, we're vulnerable. In short: Given five years of serious effort and regulation, we could be impervious. The Senate Homeland Security Committee's cyber legislation will be unveiled Thursday.

4. @daveweigel weighs in with the game of the day: In honor of Helen Thomas, a hashtag -- #killergaffes. "I think I made myself clear, young lady." Creigh Deeds, 2009

"Standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?'' -- Martha Coakley, 2010 #killergaffes

"If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored." -- Gary Hart, 1987 #killergaffes

@mattortega weighed in with: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is." -- George Allen, 2006

Other suggestions: "In the olden days our grandparents they would bring a chicken to the doctor." -- Sue Lowden, 2010

"Not only did I grope him,I tickled him until he couldn't breathe & then four guys jumped on top of me" -- Eric Massa

"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." -- John Kerry, 2004

"It's a fucking valuable thing. You don't just give it away for nothing." -- Blago!

And from @sarahpalinshand: "<wink> -- Sarah Palin, 2008"

5.  @bobgourley, former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency, tweets: "Oh no! @bletchleypark is following me! Oh wait, they don't do SIGINT anymore, just twitter. Which means I can follow them back." Security geeks must reads: Jeremy Scahill's take on Blackwater's sale (and why it's being sold now, and what the heck CIA and JSOC will do now), and DangerRoom's poll on who should buy the company.