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McCain blocks spy chief vote

By REUTERS
August 3, 2010

Sen. John McCain

Senator John McCain said on Monday he would allow a Senate vote on President Barack Obama‘s nominee to be U.S. intelligence chief as soon as he receives an intelligence report he requested 18 months ago.

But another senator, Kit Bond, said he might also move to block a vote on the spy chief nominee in order to pry loose a separate intelligence assessment on Guantanamo detainees.

McCain, a Republican, has placed a “hold” — a procedural move blocking a Senate floor vote — on the nomination of James Clapper as director of national intelligence. But he told reporters he actually had no objections to Clapper taking the post.

“It’s not about Clapper,” McCain said outside the Senate. Instead, he wants a classified report on an intelligence system that the ousted intelligence chief Admiral Dennis Blair promised him a year and a half ago.

Obama nominated Clapper in June after ousting Blair from the intelligence chief’s job. The nomination already has been delayed several weeks while some lawmakers questioned whether Clapper, who has served as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, would be too beholden to the Pentagon.

But Clapper overcame the doubts of lawmakers on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; they unanimously approved him last week. Until McCain placed his hold on the nomination, a Senate vote on Clapper had been expected to happen this week.

If it does not, it will have to wait until mid-September, after the congressional recess.

Clapper has assured McCain he will get the report he seeks by Tuesday, McCain told reporters Monday evening.

But Bond, also a Republican, said he was ready to place a hold on Clapper if necessary to get more intelligence about the threat posed by Guantanamo detainees if they are released.

Bond said he had received a redacted report on the subject from U.S. officials but wanted the full version.

Clapper would be the fourth person to hold the director of national intelligence post in five years, if he is confirmed by the Senate.

Blair’s 16-month tenure was marked by bureaucratic turf battles with the CIA and the White House, and criticism over the intelligence community’s failure to prevent a botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner.

Congress created the director of national intelligence post in 2004 to oversee the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community including the CIA, in response to lapses exposed by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. But critics say the post has never been given enough authority to be effective.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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