NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE SELECTION RAISES QUESTIONS
Blair served as head of the Pentagon's Pacific Command (CINCPAC) while in the Navy and is likely to face questions about his role in maintaining U.S. ties with Indonesia's military during a period in which it engaged in human rights violations, and about his corporate ties to a company involved in the F-22 Raptor program. There are also members of Congress who remain uncomfortable with giving the top intelligence job, with its range of priorities, to a former military officer.
Blair, who has had stints with the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), would be the third recently retired four-star officer nominated by Obama for a top post, an unusual trend for a Democratic administration and one that has surprised both political camps. Former Marine Gen. James L. Jones is the nominee for National Security Adviser, and former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki has been tapped as Secretary of the Veterans Administration.
Blair, a 34-year Navy veteran, helped turn the Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii into the largest such center in the world. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, he led an interagency effort to identify, capture or kill members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Philippines. He organized a team of special operations forces and CIA agents that worked closely with the Philippine army on tactical operations.
After retirement Blair joined the board of directors and owned stock in EDO Corp., then a subcontractor for the F-22 Raptor fighter program. His corporate ties became the subject of a Defense Department probe after IDA issued a study endorsing an EDO contract for the program. The department's inspector general found that Blair had violated IDA's conflict-of-interest rules.
Bradley Simpson, an assistant professor of history and international affairs at Princeton and Director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project, has written extensively about Blair. In a recent article he outlined Blair’s role in the US-Indonesian military alliance. “For in the period leading up to and following East Timor’s August 1999 referendum on independence from Indonesia, Blair, from his perch as US Commander in Chief of the Pacific (CINCPAC) from February 1999 to May 2000, ran interference for the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) as they and their militia proxies committed crimes against humanity on an awesome scale.”
“He went on to insist that US training of the Indonesian Armed Forces had paid dividends, with ‘many of those officers who did have training and education in the United States … are leading a very strong reform movement within TNI.’ As Dana Priest of the Washington Post later reported, however, fully one third of the Indonesian officers indicted by Indonesia’s national human rights commission for ‘crimes against humanity’ committed in East Timor in 1999 were US trained. The links between US training and TNI terror clearly did not trouble Blair, who spent much of his remaining time as CINCPAC fighting to restore the military ties to his allies in Jakarta that grassroots activists and their Congressional allies had worked since 1992 to sever, finally winning their resumption in 2002.”
“Blair’s apologetics for murder and torture by the Indonesian armed forces in East Timor, and his opposition to trials, international or otherwise, for the high level perpetrators of mass violence, offers a sobering indication of the positions he is likely to take as Director of National Intelligence. President-elect Obama’s choice suggests that he will resist - as Blair almost certainly will - demands for the prosecution of high-ranking Bush Administration officials, much less lower level employees in the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency, for torture, rendition and other crimes carried out in the name of the so-called War on Terror.”