Obama to tap retired admiral as intelligence czar: US media
Agence France-Presse
Published: Saturday December 20, 2008

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WASHINGTON (AFP) President-elect Barack Obama has tapped retired Navy admiral Dennis Blair as his intelligence czar, US media reported Saturday.

Unnamed government officials familiar with the selection process confirmed the choice to the Los Angeles Times, but the daily added that Obama had yet to conclude his search for a new Central Intelligence Agency chief.

Top intelligence jobs are the most prominent of the portfolios that Obama has yet to fill, following a flurry of announcements of appointments that rounded out the president-elect's cabinet.

If confirmed as Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Blair would face ticking international time bombs inherited from the administration of President George W. Bush, including two wars, secret CIA prisons overseas and domestic wiretapping.

The top intelligence adviser to the president and the National Security Council, he would be tasked with managing intelligence activities and overseeing 16 often fractious agencies.

Obama's team has faced hurdles in finalizing his intelligence picks, and the choice of Blair -- a career military man -- might fuel tensions between civilian and military intelligence officials, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"It's controversial from those within the intelligence community," a former top intelligence official told the Journal regarding the Blair pick.

Blair, who has a 34-year Navy career, is not known to be personally close to Obama, although he occasionally advised him in the Senate.

But he has ties with the Clintons and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University at the same times as former president Bill Clinton.

A former commander of US forces in the Pacific, Blair will be only the third director of national intelligence.

The position was created by Congress in 2004 after investigations revealed that turf-sensitive intelligence agencies failed to share information that might have averted the attacks of September 11, 2001.

That failure was followed by US intelligence's fateful error on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.