Tapper broke the news and now the AP confirms it. I assume the trigger was that Senate report that came out a few days ago finding 14 separate intelligence failures in Abdulmutallab’s attack, but the White House actually took very little heat for that in the media. Everyone’s been busy with the elections and the oil spill and Rand Paul fee-vah. The problem must run deeper and, per Tapper, it does.
For several weeks President Obama has been holding serious conversations about whether to ask Blair to step down and has interviewed candidates to replace him. After a discussion this afternoon between the president and Blair in the Oval Office about the best way forward, Blair offered to resign and the president said he would accept, sources told ABC News.
Multiple administration sources tell ABC News that Blair’s tenure internally has been a rocky one.
On the heels of a number of intelligence failures involving the Fort Hood shooter, failed Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, and questions about failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, it was no longer clear that Blair — tasked with coordinating the 16 intelligence agencies and ensuring that they cooperate and share information – still had the full and complete confidence of the president, sources say.
The news will not come as a surprise to those in the intelligence community. For months, Blair has turf battles while the White House made it clear that it had more confidence in others, such as counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan, taking the lead both publicly and privately.
Follow the link for some of Blair’s lowlights, the very worst of which was this. We were writing about turf battles between him and Panetta as far back as last June, not six months into Obama’s administration, but Blair’s liabilities to the White House started even before that. Remember this inconvenient, long forgotten bombshell that he dropped in April 2009?
President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.
“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday…
Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Advice to The One: Find a replacement who can stick to the Narrative. Exit question: Shouldn’t Obama consider a Republican as Blair’s successor? The left will scream because that’s what the left does (“he thinks we can’t be trusted to fight terror!”) but it’d actually be a shrewd move politically. The next time the system fails somehow, there’s a convenient scapegoat from the other party in place to take most of the heat. Which, needless to say, will complicate the GOP’s message on Democrats being weak on terror this fall. Obama’s got a track record too of squeezing political gain out of his appointments. Remember how he knocked Jon Huntsman out of the national conversation by making him ambassador to China?
Update: An interesting update from Tapper: “One official tells ABC News that President Obama sought Blair’s resignation earlier this week, but Blair pushed back, hoping to convince the president to change his mind.” More:
This was, the official said, the result of long pent-up dissatisfaction with Blair as the principal intelligence adviser to the president, responsible for briefing the president every day and briefing the National Security Staff. In short, officials didn’t think the briefings were relevant to what the president was focused on that day or time period. They weren’t crisp or well-presented.
At other times, Blair didn’t seem to take “no” for an answer, the official said. He was pushing an initiative dealing with intelligence and other countries, and he kept pushing it even after President Obama turned it down.
They must be exceedingly unhappy with him to be dumping on him like this.
Update: Ah, here’s that Republican candidate now. One who’s famous for criticizing Republicans, too — a double bonus!
The U.S. official said that the White House has interviewed “several strong candidates.” Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the chairman of the president’s intelligence advisory board, and Gen. James Clapper (Ret.), the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, are seen by other intelligence officials as top candidates. Clapper will face a tough confirmation, and his career profile is similar to Blair’s. Hagel would be feared by the military intelligence establishment, but he gets along with CIA director Leon Panetta, who will not be leaving his job.