Mitchell Reports | May 21, 2010
>>> too important to bail. will a $3 billion bailout, could that save our schools. ?
>>> good day, i'm andrea mitchell live in washington. dennis blair 's ousting comes two days after a scathing report on intelligence failures surrounding the christmas day bombing attempt. kit bond is the ranking member on the intelligence committee , the co-author of that joins us now. thanks so much. senator, you issued a statement blaming eric holder , saying blair deserves thanks for his long service to our country. it must have been challenging to be forced on the sidelines by the attorney, but still catch all the blame for the failings. the sarcasm undeniable, but first of all they were legendary conflicts among this team, particularly with the head of the fbi , not with eric holder so much, as the fbi chief and dennis blair , as well as leon panet panetta, so why put it at the doorstep of eric holder ?
>> i think the problems at the fbi and dni have had have come from the top in the department of justice , but let's look. right after general holder took office, they released the very sensitive office of legal counsel opinions which outlined the limits of interrogation, the president took away the power of the cia to interrogate suspects. the attorney general announced a major criminal investigation of all of the cia agents who previously had been reviewed, and prosecuted or disciplined. that's put the cia in a totally defensive mode, and when the christmas day bombing and times square bombing came, he was the one out speaking for the administration on a terrorist issue. so admiral blair knew he was out of the loop. we found out the attorney general was controlling the intelligence investigation.
>> well, but leon panetta , the head of the cia was against the res thof documents. he got overruled. they were on the same side of that dispute. but isn't this a larger issue? does this get to the whole post-9/11 intelligence reform. 16 agencies, it hasn't worked. his replacement will mark the fourth head of the dni in the five years since that agency has existed. something's not working right here.
>> there are several things that are not working. i voted against the reform, because we gave all of this responsibility with high expectations to the dni, we did not give him the legislative authority, and previous dnis, i begged them to tell me what they needed after they left office, they said you were right, we don't have the authority. there was one famous conflict between the cia and the dni and the white house came down on the side of the cia . so the dni job has really been downgraded even further than it was by the law.
>> well, to make your point, david ignatius and "the washington post ," who is a really smart guy on all these sibts, said dennis blairered, adding that he had an impossible job, a job with a fuzzy mandate and powers that existed more on paper than in fact. krit irks argued that the operation added more layeren in an intelligence community that had too much of both. only earlier this week we had lee hamilton and tom kean who were the cochairs of the 9/11 commission. this is what they had to say about the problems there.
>> the role of the dni is not clear. the burden is on the president now to clarify who is in charge of the intelligence community .
>> the christmas day bomber and perhaps the times square bomber did us a huge favor, because it got us to look against at the watch list and the problems with it. it got us to look at the problems of information sharing again.
>> can the current system be fixed? if tom kean is right and the failed bombers did us a favor, because we're now looking at the watch list , until this structure -- because no one is suggesting that the whole legislation will be ripped up and started all over. i don't think that's going to happen, not anytime soon. can it work within the existing system?
>> there are going to have tore some changes. as david ignatius said, and i agree, it's got to come from the top. lee hamilton and tom kean was right. number one, when the president appoints a new dni, he better tell that person he has his full authority to investigate intelligence matters and be the spokesman for the administration, not the attorney general. dennis blair complained bitterly about giving miranda rights to terrorists, they don't need to give them miranda rights . it's more important to get intelligence which can prevent the next attack, so we don't have to depend on democrat terrorists, blind luck and active citizens to stop the next attack.
>> and what about the possibility of general jim clapper over now at the pentagon. a lot of us knew him previously at the mapping agency, and renamed the g.o. spatial agency. would he about be a good successor to dennis blair ?
>> i think he's served admirably, done a great job in the positions he's held. i don't think the dni is the right place for him. if you want to try to give the dni the clout he needs, the only person around who could perhaps have the political power to make it work is leon panetta . i don't want to -- his suggestions --
>> i've been told he's already turned it down, he doesn't want it.
>> i'm sure that anybody in their right mind wouldn't want it the way it sets up now. so maybe you could convince leon to take it and give him some support and change some laws to give him some real authority. we need to do it, because we are at risk. there are more attacks coming, and our dumb luck and incompetent terrorists will not be enough.
>> if its jim clapper, would you vote to confirm him?
>> oh, yeah, sure. i know jim well. we've worked -- we've been together on spy occasions where we were private events, and he and i are friends. but i just don't think he's the right man now.
>> kit bond , thank you very much.