Obama administration officials were flabbergasted this week when Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair testified that an alleged Qaeda operative who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation unit that doesn’t exist, rather than the FBI, Newsweek reports. One senior official described the comments by Blair–the top U.S. intelligence official–as misinformed on multiple levels and all the more damaging because they fueled Republican criticism that the administration mishandled the Christmas Day incident in its treatment of the accused Qaeda operative as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant.
Testifying to a Senate committee, Blair referred to a High-Value Interrogation Group–a special unit that an Obama administration task force recommended be created last summer. “That unit was created exactly for this purpose–to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” Blair told the panel. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have.” Blair later issued a clarification that he did not mean to imply that the unit existed now.