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What Clapper Means For Intel


UPDATED:  Strong Support Voiced By Senior HPSCI Democrat

Jim Clapper may have ticked off a senior Republican on the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, but most intelligence professionals and some very important Democrats view his ascension to the DNI as a most welcome event.

One of the top intelligence lawmakers came out today with a resoundingly strong statement endorsing Clapper. “General James Clapper tells it like it is and gives honest assessments of situations. He is true to his beliefs. General Clapper is comfortable speaking truth to power even when those in power don’t want to hear it, or if it costs him his job, as it once did. He is a true, patriotic American that I have always respected,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, head of the HPSCI's technical and tactical subcommittee. Ruppersberger's support is particularly telling because he is the congressman who represents Fort Meade, where the NSA is based. And as head of the so-called T-and-T subcommittee, he knows more about the NRO, NSA and NGA than all but a handful of lawmakers. Also, since those agencies are all military intelligence agencies and Clapper is undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, he and Ruppersberger have worked together on a wide range of acquisition, technical and policy issues.

Other senior Democrats are right with Ruppersberger. “I believe Jim Clapper is a superb choice to be the next Director of National Intelligence," John Hamre, former deputy Defense secretary and now president of the Center for Strategic & International Studies." One of the keys to Hamre's support for Clapper: "I have witnessed his advocacy for reform for over a dozen years.  He is the right man at the right time.”

Hamre's support looms large, as dean of defense Democrats and influential head of CSIS. Many staff on the Hill will be sympathetic to Hamre's views, as will their bosses.

The most significant aspect of Clapper's background is his knowledge of geospatial intelligence, a discipline he played a large part in creating as head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. You can bet that in the battle for dollars and influence between the main defense intel agencies -- National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and NGA -- that the geospatial folks are very hopeful that their slice of the budget will grow, as will their influence over what is bought and why.

And then, of course, there is the support of one of the country's veteran intel officers, a fellow named Robert Gates. This is what Gates said from Azerbaijan: “I think the president could not have found a better person, a more experienced person, or [a person] with a better temperament to do this job and actually make it work than Jim Clapper,” Gates said.

Gates increasingly looks as if he is the most influential Cabinet officer in the Obama administration, so his views will go a long way to help Clapper through the Senate nomination. Our bet: Clapper sails through, notwithstanding a ticked off member of the HPSCI.

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