U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair stepping down

08:29, May 21, 2010      

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U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Thursday he is to step down. The White House has already started interviewing candidates for his replacement.

In a statement released by his office, Blair said he "informed the president today that I will step down as Director of National Intelligence effective Friday, May 28th." He didn't explain why he chose to resign.

As President Barack Obama's top intelligence adviser, Blair is responsible for coordinating the 16 intelligence agencies of the United States.

Blair has held the job for 16 months. The tenure was marred by a series of failures of the intelligence community, which include the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009, failed Christmas plane bombing attempt and the New York City Times Square car bomb plot.

In the Christmas bombing attempt, the intelligence community failed to stop a Nigerian youth, who is on a U.S. watch list, from boarding a U.S.-bound plane. The incident and its aftermath has cost Blair the support of the White House.

Blair has made some controversial remarks. He was the first high level official to say Fort Hood shooting, in which an Army shrink killed 13 people, is an act of domestic extremism. He also said after the Christmas plane bombing suspect Farouk Abdul- Mutallab should be interrogated by the newly formed High-Value Interrogation Group, but the team wasn't operational at that time. It interrogated the Time Square bombing plot suspect Faisal Shahzad.

After the Times Square plot, Blair divulged during a Senate hearing that Shahzad was cooperating with investigators. Law enforcement agencies at that time wasn't ready to disclose the fact just yet.

Blair's tenure was also marred by turf war with CIA chief Leon Panetta, as Blair tried to appoint representatives at U.S. embassies, instead of relying on CIA station chiefs.

Obama has previously held discussions about whether to ask Blair to step down and interviewed possible replacements, reports said.



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