President Obama has announced the appointment of retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and current undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to be the next Director of National Intelligence. Eli Lake has some interesting background on Clapper. According to Lake, in 2004 Clapper supported the view that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq sent weapons and documents to Syria in the weeks before the 2003 U.S. invasion.
I had never heard of Clapper’s name before reading of Obama’s nomination of him to replace Blair as the DNI. If Pete Hoekstra opposes him, however, there must be reasonable ground for believing Clapper may not be the man for the job. Hoekstra is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and a serious man. Politico reports that Hoekstra has related the existence of “bipartisan opposition” to Clapper’s nomination, and complained that Clapper failed to brief Congress on “an extraordinarily sensitive program.”
Politico’s report also suggests that several more prominent candidates for the position declined it. They apparently prefer not to play second banana to the CIA in the bureaucratic turf wars that the position entails. The CIA is happy with Clapper. Politico points out that CIA Director Leon Panetta, who clashed with Blair, praised Claper’s nomination, calling Clapper “a highly qualified intelligence professional” who “[t]he men and women of the CIA look forward to working closely with … to strengthen America’s national security.”
Clapper’s nomination reminded me of the “The Copper Clapper Caper” skit broadcast in 1968 on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In the skit Jack Webb hilariously reprised his “Dragnet” role as Sergeant Joe Friday and Johnny Carson played Everyman reporting the crime. (In 1968 “Dragnet” was in its second television run; the series remained in NBC’s lineup until 1970.) Forty years later, the skit still inspires laughter.
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