DNI at Hopkins

Just attended a talk with the Director of National Intelligence at Hopkins at the Foreign Affairs Symposium.

It was interesting. Some people were mildly disrespectful during the Q&A, as expected.

He is very sharp. Sharp like a knife that cuts both ways; he fires back and fires back hard. Nicely sardonic. I kinda like it.

He said some very good things and some not so good things. He talked about how the CIA and other intelligence communities need to dwell within the bounds of the law, and I like a DNI that says that.

He spoke very sharply (though obliquely) against Tenet, the NIE for Iraq, and the politicization thereof.

He gave an interesting though weaseling answer to the question of torture, saying that in the case of something like waterboarding specifically, it can be used for getting information and has in the past successfully, that currently the intelligence agencies are forbidden to use any method not in the Army Manual, and that if someone were to be waterboarded he would go through all the legal steps; get a ruling from the AG, permission from the President, and notify Congress.

What else… he made a statement about cutting through some of the red tape for people who wanted to work in the Intelligence community. He said that, basically, he is against declassification of NIEs and their key judgments. He agreed with the government’s most recent comments re: FISA, which presumably means he wants retroactive immunity. He spoke at times in rabidly hyperbolic rhetoric and at times in extremely sensible and plain, logical terms.

The symposium Q&A will, I’m sure, be up on the news, and might even have been streamed live.

I was next in line to ask a question, but they called it. ;( I was going to ask, paraphrased, what he thought about retroactive immunity given his previous comments about the paramount importance of following legality.

He also said some stuff about wired vs non-wired and communication which is either hyperbole or fact, but I don’t know enough to know.