AP source: Intelligence nominee has smooth session
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama's nominee to be chief of U.S. intelligence, James R. Clapper, is expected to be approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee when the panel meets Thursday.
The director of national intelligence oversees the nation's 16 spy agencies. Obama nominated Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who is the Pentagon's chief intelligence official, to succeed retired Adm. Dennis Blair. The nation's third intelligence chief -- Congress created the position in 2004-- Blair stepped down under pressure after clashing with other intelligence officials.
Clapper met privately Wednesday with Republican and Democratic lawmakers. A senior congressional staffer said that one of the main opponents of Clapper's nomination, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the committee's senior Republican, left the session favorably impressed with Clapper. The staffer requested anonymity to discuss the meeting.
Clapper's confirmation may still face opposition from GOP lawmakers because they blame the White House for the continuing delay in passing last year's intelligence act. The bill has passed the Senate but has languished in the House.
One sticking point is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been negotiating with the White House to require that intelligence briefings include the congressional intelligence committees and not just senior congressional leaders. The House version of the measure also would give the Government Accountability Office oversight of the nation's intelligence agencies.
Critics of Clapper's nomination have questioned whether he would be independent of the Pentagon, given his military background. In remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing last week, he assured lawmakers he would be candid with Congress on intelligence matters and would work to gain their trust.