Observers debate role, authority of intelligence chief

Whatever Dennis Blair's personal problems as director of national intelligence, the role is inherently awkward.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair announced his resignation, effective May 28, amid reports that he had clashed with the White House and, particularly, the politically ultra-connected CIA director, Leon Panetta.

Prominent members of Congress, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and two contributors to this blog, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, immediately expressed their skepticism about Blair's ouster. Some observers suggest that Blair is being held accountable -- or scapegoated -- for the intelligence community's failures in the Christmas Day and Times Square bombing attempts. Others argue he overreached his authority as DNI -- if anyone could agree what the DNI's scope is in the first place.

Like the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created as a highly visible solution to the problems of 9/11 and has struggled ever since. Whatever Blair's personal problems as DNI, the role is inherently awkward, the product of a quest to improve security by redrawing organizational charts. Blair is the third person to hold the office in the five years since it was created. So was Blair just the wrong guy to be DNI?

Whoever holds it next, does the office need new powers and another reorganization of the intelligence community? Or should there even be a DNI at all?

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