Dennis Blair: Covert Activity Laws 'Slow,' Undermine Field Operations

Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence
Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence

Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence, said in his confirmation hearings that existing laws governing the conduct of intelligence agencies are “currently slow and degrade the conduct of operations in the field.”

Last month, he released a letter to the intelligence community assuring it of his continued support, attempting to put politically charged issues like enhanced interrogation techniques “into perspective.”

As a retired naval officer whose first deployment began in 1968 on the USS Tattnall during the Vietnam War, he says he understands the challenges they face in a largely hostile public environment:

“As a young Navy officer during the Vietnam years, I experienced public scorn for those of us who served in the Armed Forces during an unpopular war. Challenging and debating the wisdom and policies linked to wars and warfighting is important and legitimate; however, disrespect for those who serve honorably within legal guidelines is not.”

Amid political questions concerning the NSA’s expanded role in protecting the integrity of critical networks, Blair defended the integrity of U.S. intelligence personnel, saying, “I remember well the pain of those of us who served our country even when the policies we were carrying out were unpopular or could be second-guessed.”

In his confirmation hearings, Blair indicated that he favored increased cooperation between intelligence agencies and the military, stating, “There is often not a bright line between these operations,” a position that seems to align with the proposed creation of a “Fifth Domain” cybersecurity command.

Blair closed his letter saying, “There will almost certainly be more media articles about the actions of intelligence agencies in the past, and as we do our vital work of protecting the country, we will make mistakes that will also be reported. What we must do is make it absolutely clear to the American people that our ethos is to act legally, in as transparent a manner as we can, and in a way that they would be proud of if we could tell them the full story.”

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