[Congressional Record: January 28, 2009 (Senate)]
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                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                     Nomination of Dennis C. Blair

  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today as chairman of the Select 
Committee on Intelligence to urge the Senate to confirm Admiral Dennis 
C. Blair to be the next Director of National Intelligence.
  Admiral Blair is well known to many of us from his years of service 
as the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. He has served 
with distinction in the national security field all his adult life, 
entering the Naval Academy in 1964 and serving for 34 years.
  During his naval career, Admiral Blair was involved in the 
intelligence field and in policymaking. He worked twice in the White 
House, first as a fellow and then on the National Security Council 
staff. He worked for 2 years at the CIA as the Associate Director for 
Military Support. And he was named to be the Director of the Joint 
Staff in 1996.
  He has been a consumer and a manager of intelligence through his 
career, and he has a strong understanding of the importance of 
providing the President, the Congress, and other policymakers with 
accurate, actionable, and timely intelligence.
  Admiral Blair will be the Nation's third Director of National 
Intelligence, a position that was left vacant by the resignation of ADM 
Mike McConnell earlier this week. It is critical that Admiral Blair be 
confirmed so that the intelligence community has the leadership it 
  I hope that the Senate will confirm Admiral Blair on a strong 
bipartisan basis, sending the signal that we are united in our support 
for the nominee and in our interest in strong leadership of the 
intelligence community.
  The position of the Director of National Intelligence was created so 
that there would be a single leader of the 16 intelligence agencies who 
could bring greater integration to the work of U.S. intelligence. The 
job of the Director is to break down the stovepipes and put 
intelligence agencies back on the right track when they go astray.
  Progress has been made by the previous Directors, Ambassador 
Negroponte and Admiral McConnell, but they would agree much work is 
ahead. As Admiral Blair said to the committee, it will be his job as 
the DNI to see that ``the whole of the national intelligence enterprise 
is always more than the sum of its parts.''
  Admiral Blair has pledged, however, to take forceful action when 
there are disagreements or when he believes an agency is not performing 
as it should.
  He has a keen appreciation both for the many smart, dedicated and 
brave professionals in the intelligence community workforce and for the 
role of the DNI to give these professionals the right missions, and the 
right tools, to collect the intelligence we need and conduct 
professional and accurate analysis.
  President-elect Obama announced his intention to nominate Admiral 
Blair on January 9, 2009, and then President Obama submitted the 
nomination to the Senate on his first afternoon in office. The 
Intelligence Committee carefully reviewed Admiral Blair's record and 
his views on the role of the Director of National Intelligence, the 
threats facing the United States, and the appropriate way for the 
intelligence community to handle its missions.
  The committee held a public hearing with Admiral Blair on January 22, 
at which he was introduced and supported by our distinguished colleague 
and very first chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator 
  Before and after the hearing, Admiral Blair answered numerous 
questions for the record. His answers can be found on the committee's 
Web site, and I commend them to all Members and the public for a better 
understanding of his views about the important office to which he has 
been nominated, and the challenges he will face on behalf of the 
American people.
  I have been especially pleased with the commitment of Admiral Blair 
to address the issue of congressional oversight. In our prehearing 
questions, we asked Admiral Blair about his views on keeping the 
intelligence committees fully and currently informed of intelligence 
  We asked him to address in particular the failure to brief the entire 
membership of the intelligence committees on the CIA's interrogation, 
detention, and rendition program, and the NSA's electronic surveillance 
program. His direct answer recognized a fundamental truth: ``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.''
  Admiral Blair has pledged that he will work closely with the 
committee and the Congress to build a relationship of trust and candor. 
He has said that the leadership of the intelligence community must earn 
the support and trust of the intelligence oversight committees if it is 
to earn the trust and support of the American people. I wholeheartedly 
  I am confident that Admiral Blair will ensure that the membership of 
the select committee is given access to the information it needs to 
perform its oversight role, and U.S. intelligence programs will have a 
stronger foundation because of it.
  He has also agreed to come before the committee on a monthly basis to 
have candid discussions with all members on the major issues he sees 
and the challenges he faces. These sessions are enormously important 
for the committee to truly understand the workings of the intelligence 
community and to carry out our oversight responsibilities.
  In addition, Admiral Blair will have a pivotal role in the 
implementation of the recent presidential Executive orders to close the 
detention center in Guantanamo and ensure there is a single standard 
for the humane and lawful treatment of detainees by U.S. military and 
intelligence services.
  These executive orders represent an extraordinarily important turning 
point for our Nation. Admiral Blair has made strong statements to the 
committee that torture is not moral, legal, or effective, and that the 
U.S. Government must have a single clear standard for the treatment and 
interrogation of detainees. I am convinced he will help ensure we are 
once more true to our ideals and protecting our national security.
  Having been an early advocate of the creation of the position, it is 
for me a distinct honor that my very first floor responsibility as the 
new chairman of the Intelligence Committee is to report this 
  I am pleased to relay to my colleagues that the Intelligence 
Committee met today, on January 28, and voted to report favorably the 
nomination of Admiral Blair to be the Director of National 
  The Senate has moved quickly to act on this recommendation. It is a 
testament to the importance of the position and the qualifications of 
the nominee. I thank the vice chairman for working with me to move the 
nomination quickly but with the due diligence appropriate for this 
  Admiral Blair has my strong support to lead the intelligence 
community and I look forward to working with him closely in the days to 
  Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Mr. President, I rise to congratulate Admiral Denny 
Blair on his unanimous confirmation as the Director of National 
Intelligence, one of the most important and demanding jobs in our 
government. This position requires a leader with tremendous management 
skills--someone capable of bringing the 16 disparate agencies of the 
intelligence community into a cohesive organization that provides 
timely, accurate intelligence to our government.
  This intelligence is necessary to keep our Nation and our people 
safe, so Admiral Blair undertakes a sober, solemn responsibility today. 
He will take on this task at a time when we are fighting two wars as 
well as a global fight against terrorist networks, not to mention 
enormous long-term strategic challenges--including those that have 
arisen in recent months in the wake of the global financial and 
economic crisis.
  These are perilous times, but I am confident he is up to the task. 
Admiral Blair brings a wealth of valuable experience to the job. As a 
senior military commander he was a high level consumer of intelligence 
and familiar with the systems used to collect and produce intelligence. 
He also knows the Central Intelligence Agency having spent time as the 
first Associate Director for Military Affairs.

[[Page S1004]]

  Perhaps his greatest attribute, however, is his experience directing 
a large, sprawling organization, made up of disparate agencies and 
cultures, to achieve a common mission. That is what he accomplished 
successfully as the commander of all U.S. military forces in the 
Pacific, and that is exactly what his mission will be as the DNI.
  I think this is a very promising time for our intelligence community 
and our national security, and Admiral Blair's confirmation is a big 
part of that. I want to underscore what he told us in his confirmation 
hearing--that we are entering a ``new era in the relationship'' between 
Congress and the executive branch on matters of intelligence.
  Specifically, Admiral Blair said that he will place great importance 
on keeping Congress informed--not just formally notified, but fully 
informed--on intelligence activities. He said that he will work to 
ensure that classification is not used as a way to, in his words, 
``hide things'' from Members of Congress who need to know about them.
  He stated clearly and I quote, ``We need to have processes which 
don't just check a block on telling somebody but actually get the 
information across to the right people.''
  These are very important commitments, and they portend good things 
for our intelligence community and for our national security. I have 
had the opportunity to speak with Admiral in great depth over the past 
several months, and these discussions have given me confidence in his 
sincerity with these commitments.
  And I expect that, likewise, he and the Obama administration have 
confidence that Congress will hold them to it. In fact this cooperation 
has already begun.
  With this new era of cooperation in mind, I want to state for the 
record that we have an opportunity to make a sharp turn toward new 
intelligence policies that will bolster our counterterrorism efforts 
and strengthen our national security in general.
  To be accurate and valuable, intelligence must be politically neutral 
information, not spin. And it must be collected with methods that enjoy 
bipartisan support as both legal and effective.
  To ensure this, secret intelligence activities must be subject to 
rigorous congressional oversight. We are the only independent reviewers 
of secret intelligence activities, and we are the only outside check on 
activities that are not legal or not effective.
  Oversight should not be adversarial--it is a necessary partnership 
between the executive branch and the Congress.
  I have fought to remove politics from intelligence and to restore 
Congress's vital oversight role since I joined the committee in 2001, 
and I will keep fighting for it now.
  I don't want to get into who is at fault for the cycle we were caught 
in over the past several years. Instead I want to look ahead to what is 
possible now.
  I think there is a real chance that in this new year, we can have a 
new start.
  We can and should debate how we go about collecting and analyzing 
intelligence--for instance on interrogation policies--but we can do 
that without the stain of political considerations.
  Between the executive and legislative branches, we can and should 
engage and debate these policies, but we can do that in partnership, 
with the knowledge that more information exchanges and deliberations 
give rise to better intelligence collection and analysis.
  In short, we can recognize that we are all on the same team when it 
comes to finding out the sensitive information we need to protect this 
great Nation.
  If we play on that same team, I know we can have accurate, reliable 
intelligence that is collected in a way that makes this country proud, 
and is analyzed without the taint of political influence.
  I congratulate Admiral Denny Blair on his confirmation.
  Mr. BOND. Mr. President, I wish to express my support for the 
nomination of ADM Dennis Blair to be the next Director of National 
  Over the past several weeks, Admiral Blair and I have spoken at 
length about the role of the DNI and the expectations that we in 
Congress will have of him.
  First and foremost, we expect that the DNI will direct the 
intelligence community and not be a coordinator or consensus-seeker or 
govern by majority.
  Second, the DNI must be a strong leader, standing on equal footing 
with the Secretary of Defense and other Cabinet officials.
  Third, the DNI must assert appropriate authority over the CIA--it is 
the DNI, and the DNI alone, who should speak and act as the President's 
intelligence adviser.
  I am pleased that Admiral Blair has pledged that he will come back to 
Congress to ask for any additional authorities if he determines that 
such authorities are needed to direct the intelligence community.
  The intelligence community needs a strong leader right now. As we 
know, last week the President signed a number of Executive orders that 
not only will have a lasting impact on how we fight this war on terror 
but have created immediate and serious legal and practical problems in 
handling terrorist detainees.
  Admiral Blair will play a key role in the implementation of these 
Executive orders.
  I believe that the sooner he learns all the facts about the CIA's 
interrogation and detention program and the ramifications of closing 
Guantanamo Bay, the better he will be able to guide that process in a 
manner that will not jeopardize American lives.
  Admiral Blair has had a long and distinguished career in Government 
service. He brings a lifetime of sound judgment and strong character to 
this difficult job.
  I believe Admiral Blair is up to the task of leading the intelligence 
community and I would urge my colleagues to support his nomination.