Plane Truth

/ January 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

During his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, President Obama's pick for director of national intelligence, was hit with a wide variety of questions on the vast array of issues swirling around the intelligence community, and how he planned to address them.

But before Blair could be put on the spot over such issues as the interrogation tactics used by CIA operatives on foreign enemy combatants, domestic surveillance programs or what to do with the detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay once the U.S. detention facility there is closed, committee members wanted to hear . . . about the F-22A Raptor program.

For the very first question of the hearing, Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) brought up a 2006 incident regarding Blair's involvement on the Raptor program during his tenure as president of the Fairfax, VA-based Institute for Defense Analyses. At the time, it was revealed that Blair held financial interests in F-22A subcontractor EDO Corp while IDA was conducting a business-case analysis on the program for the Air Force.

"Why you did not recuse yourself, how you view that decision in retrospect, and how you would intend to handle potential future conflicts in the future?" Feinstein asked. In response, Blair told members of the committee that the decision not to recuse himself from the IDA review of the Raptor was a mistake.

"I've thought a great deal about the incident since and the greatest damage was the damage to my own reputation for integrity caused by that decision and of course, the reputation of the Institute for Defense Analysis. I should have recused myself and I didn't," Blair said. However, he did note that a Defense Deparment inspector general inquiry into the matter found that his ties to EDO Corp. did not affect the results of 2006 business-case analysis.

"I think the lesson of that is that you can be absolutely sure that if confirmed, I will not take any action that is remotely -- that can remotely cause that kind of a situation to happen again. I will comply fully, in consultation with my counsel, with all regulations and ensure that any decisions that I make as DNI will be completely free of any suspicion," he said.

-- Carlo Muñoz