White House aims to calm bickering intel leaders: report
WASHINGTON — The White House has published an internal memo to calm tension between CIA director Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who is seeking increased control over covert operations, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The classified order asserts the Central Intelligence Agency’s direct authority over secret missions abroad, but also reminds the agency to work closely with Blair, who heads the US intelligence establishment, a US intelligence official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to the LA Times, Blair was seeking more control over missions that include drone strikes and paramilitary operations in Pakistan.
Blair and Panetta have also clashed over the last month over the role of the CIA in Afghanistan, which Blair reportedly believes is too focused on the hunt for Taliban insurgents and is de-emphasizing the collection of intelligence at the local level.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano did not confirm the existence of the memo, but said that Panetta “views the National Security Adviser’s decision as bringing much-needed clarity to intelligence roles and responsibilities.”
Gimigliano told AFP that Panetta “regards these issues as settled, and he has instructed the agency to move forward with the Office of the DNI as one team.”
A US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, separately told AFP that CIA agents “were very pleased with the outcome” of the White House directive.
“On all the key points, the CIA’s equities were protected — not at the expense of the DNI, but in a way that promotes efficiency on both sides, a goal everyone shares,” the official said.
“The White House chose to keep a direct chain of communication to the CIA on covert action. The president orders it, and the CIA carries it out. Given the stakes involved, every president since (US president Harry) Truman has wanted that channel to be as clear as possible.”
The DNI is kept informed of covert actions, and “as the president’s principal foreign intelligence adviser, can be asked to provide his views on them. It’s a logical system,” the official said.