The president’s top intelligence adviser, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, has announced his resignation, effective Friday.
Blair, a retired four-star Navy admiral, has served in the post since January 29, 2009. His office oversees 17 federal agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Word of Blair’s resignation comes two days after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that sharply criticized the National Counterterrorism Center, overseen by Blair’s office, for failing to properly coordinate intelligence activities to detect the alleged attempted Christmas Day airline bombing in advance.
The report said the center, created after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to coordinate U.S. intelligence efforts, was “not organized adequately to fulfill its missions.”
In addition, the report said other problems allowed suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab to board a flight bound for Detroit, Michigan, in December. He is accused of carrying an explosive device that failed to detonate and instead set his clothes on fire. AbdulMutallab was detained when other passengers noticed his clothes burning.
The report identified 14 “points of failure” in the incident, most of which have been raised previously by intelligence officials, including the failure of the State Department to revoke the suspect’s U.S. visa, a breakdown in disseminating all information to key agencies and the failure to conduct necessary searches for information.
Blair responded to the report by noting changes made in response to the Christmas incident, including creation of a National Counterterrorism Center analytical unit dedicated to following up on terrorist threat information. However, Blair’s statement noted that “institutional and technological barriers remain that prevent seamless sharing of information.”
The issue of whether AbdulMutallab should have been read his Miranda rights also came into question. During congressional hearings on the case in January, FBI Direct Robert Mueller said AbdulMutallab was interviewed twice by what Mueller called some of the best FBI agents. Officials said the first interrogation lasted about 50 minutes, and the second was shorter.
AbdulMutallab provided information that “has already proved useful in the fight against al Qaeda,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
It was after the second interrogation that AbdulMutallab was read his Miranda rights — rights under U.S. law that are read to individuals before arrest. At that point, he stopped talking to the agents.
Blair, at the time, testified that a newly created high-value, detainee-interrogation group should have been brought into the loop.
“That unit was created exactly for this purpose: to make a decision on whether a certain person who is detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” he said.
However, Blair later discovered that the group was not yet operational, a revelation that surprised many senators. He also said he hadn’t been consulted on the decision to read AbdulMutallab his Miranda rights.