[Congressional Record: January 29, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S1052-S1053]                       

                            BLAIR NOMINATION

  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I support the nomination of ADM Dennis 
Blair to be Director of National Intelligence. I do so as a strong 
supporter of intelligence reform and in the belief that Admiral Blair 
brings not only a keen understanding of the current challenges to 
interagency cooperation but an enthusiasm for reform. I am also 
encouraged by his consistent and repeated commitments to keep the 
congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed, and 
his desire to end the stonewalling conducted by the Bush 
administration. The confirmation process has raised a number of issues 
of concern that I believe have been adequately addressed, although it 
is my hope and expectation that Admiral Blair, if confirmed, will work 
with me and other members of the committee on these, as well as other 
important matters.
  Admiral Blair has committed to ending the Bush administration 
practice of hiding programs such as the CIA detention program and the 
President's warrantless wiretapping program from the full committee and 
has said that these programs ``were less effective and did not have 
sufficient legal and constitutional foundations because the 
intelligence committees were prevented from carrying out their 
oversight responsibilities.'' He has also committed to breaking down 
the stovepiping of oversight whereby Intelligence Committee members are 
denied access to important Department of Defense activities. These 
commitments are a critical first step in ensuring effective oversight 
and in reestablishing a collaborative relationship between our two 
branches of Government.
  While I was disappointed with Admiral Blair's refusal, at his 
hearing, to characterize waterboarding as torture, I am confident that 
he will carry out President Obama's Executive order prohibiting 
``enhanced interrogation techniques.'' I am also assured by his 
statement that ``the United States must not render or otherwise 
transfer anyone to a country unless we have credible assurances that 
they will not be subject to torture or other unacceptable treatment.''
  His statements on privacy, civil liberties and checks and balances 
have also been reassuring. He has expressed concern about the U.S. 
Government's accumulation of detailed private information on U.S. 
citizens. He has reaffirmed that FISA is the ``only legal authority for 
conducting surveillance within the United States for intelligence 
purposes.'' He told me at his hearing that he would submit intelligence 
programs to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel at the 
outset, so that they are conducted under clear legal authorities. And, 
more generally, he has stated that he sees it has his responsibility to 
``make clear that protecting the privacy and civil liberties of 
Americans is as important as gathering intelligence.'' I do have 
concerns about his statement that he supports immunity for companies 
that allegedly cooperated with

[[Page S1053]]

President Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping program and will urge 
him to reconsider his position once he is more familiar with the 
  I have found Admiral Blair to be very forthcoming with regard to 
reform. He clearly understands the importance not only of integrating 
the intelligence community but of developing coherent strategies that 
bring the intelligence community together with other departments of the 
U.S. Government, as well as budgets that reflect those strategies. 
These efforts have been central to my work in the Intelligence 
Committee, as I sought--through legislation and classified letters--to 
obtain interagency counterterrorism and other national security 
strategies from the Bush administration. I am confident that Admiral 
Blair will work to change this longstanding gap in our strategic 
capabilities. I am also reassured by his statement, at his confirmation 
hearing, that he agrees with the need to bring together the ways the 
U.S. Government obtains information, through the IC as well as through 
diplomatic reporting and other nonclandestine means. This critical 
priority was the subject of legislation introduced last year by Senator 
Hagel and myself and passed by the Intelligence Committee, and I will 
continue working to enact that bill.
  A related issue is the need to ensure that Department of Defense 
intelligence activities are conducted under the policies of the DNI and 
under chief of mission authorities. In this regard, Admiral Blair has 
not indicated any new policy positions. On the other hand, he has 
stated that he understands the importance of ``a coherent and 
coordinated approach to foreign governments and intelligence services'' 
and has promised to ``act quickly to put in place procedures to 
accomplish the directed alignment of foreign intelligence and 
counterintelligence agreements and to institutionalize it for the 
future.'' This is a critical issue, and I look forward to working 
closely with Admiral Blair, should he be confirmed, as well as other 
members of the administration.
  Another issue on which I expect to work with Admiral Blair, should he 
be confirmed, is human rights. I have, and no doubt will continue to 
have, disagreements with him about U.S. engagement with the Indonesian 
military, notwithstanding the lack of accountability for human rights 
abuses. While Admiral Blair has helped clarify his role when he was at 
Pacific Command, those substantive differences remain. Going forward, I 
am encouraged by his statement that the intelligence community ``needs 
to emphasize in its relationships around the world that the United 
States respects and seeks to advance respect for human rights and that 
IC agencies do not condone behavior that violates this core American 
value.'' I expect to work with Admiral Blair to ensure that that 
message is conveyed convincingly.
  Finally, I have raised concerns about Admiral Blair's past conflicts 
of interest. He has acknowledged mistakes, including his failure to 
seek counsel before deciding not to recuse himself. I have asked him 
whether he would seek counsel in the future, including of ethics 
officers, and he has assured me that he would.