Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper fell back on the words of an old friend to defend his handling of intelligence about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Speaking at the GEOINT symposium in Orlando, Clapper recalled arriving back in Washington from Australia and “reading media clips about the hapless, hopeless, helpless, incompetent DNI, because I acknowledged publicly that we didn’t instantly have the God’s eye, God’s ear certitude about the event.”
Credit: U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation
He was referring to a Sept. 28 statement from his office announcing that the community had shifted its thinking about whether the Benghazi attack was preplanned, a change that became fodder for Republican critics of the Obama administration.
Intelligence officials initially told the White House the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration. Newer analysis suggests it was “a deliberate and organized terrorist attack,” according to the statement.
In a talk that was at times caustic, sarcastic, and humorous, Clapper suggested that it was dangerous to inject election year politics into the intelligence process which is just that – a process.
He said an article published last week by retired Georgetown professor Paul Pillar should be instructive to the legislative and executive branches, and to “the fourth estate – the media.”
Clapper read aloud Pillar’s entire 455 word article posted Oct. 1 on the “The National Interest” website. The article makes the case that “hindsight is cheap,” but Clapper put special emphasis on this passage:
“The demand for an explanation that is quick, definite and unchanging, reflects a naïve expectation, or in the present case, irresponsible politicking.”
Later, during the question and answer session, Clapper said it might be time to set a term limit for his position. A fixed term “would be a good thing,” he said, if the country wants to keep the position “functionally apolitical.”
Clapper joked that he might need a new job after Jan. 21. “I’ll have both feet in assisted living,” he said.