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DNI nominee's memo draws criticism

  |   June 9, 2010 at 7:50 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama's nominee for director of national intelligence argued two months ago against increasing the office's authority, congressional aides said.

Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr.'s memo written in April said empowering the national intelligence director's office likely would carve into budgetary and personnel authorities of the intelligence agencies now controlled by the Pentagon, among other things, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Christopher Bond, R-Mo., the chairwoman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have said the intelligence director needs greater authority to oversee the nation's 16 intelligence-gathering agencies. They both have challenged Clapper's commitment to strengthen the office.

President Obama nominated Clapper last week after firing his first national intelligence director, Dennis Blair, in April.

"I am particularly interested in his views on the powers of the DNI, the appropriate role of the DNI with respect to agencies within the Department of Defense, and his views on the importance and appropriate role of congressional oversight of intelligence," Feinstein said in a statement.

Bond voiced his concerns about the memo -- which Clapper wrote in April in his capacity as undersecretary of Defense for intelligence -- that argued against provisions to strengthen the intelligence director's office included in a bipartisan intelligence authorization bill, a congressional aide brief on the meeting told the Times.

"The president has made clear he expects Clapper to be little more than a figurehead when it comes to our nation's terror-fighting policies, choosing a man who has actively worked to undermine the authority of the DNI is just one example," Bond said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Clapper "very independent minded."

"But he is the consummate intelligence professional who has the respect of virtually everybody in the community," Gates said during a weekend interview.

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