Ex-senator Dan Coats is Trump pick for intel chief

06 Jan 2017 / 11:32 H.

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump has chosen for his director of national intelligence someone who could provide a counterweight to the president-elect's alleged soft spot for Moscow: a former senator banned by Russia.
Dan Coats, 73, will be nominated by Trump to serve as the powerful coordinator of 16 intelligence and security agencies, according to multiple US media reports Thursday.
Coats, who served as a Republican senator from Indiana from 1989 to 1999, and then from 2011 to the end of his term on Tuesday, was one of six US legislators and three White House aides blacklisted by Moscow in 2014 in reprisal for US sanctions placed on the country for its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Coats, who had advocated tough sanctions against Russia, called the ban an honour.
"While I'm disappointed that I won't be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer, I am honoured to be on this list," he tweeted at the time.
Coats, who was US ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005 under the George W. Bush administration, served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as well as economy-related committees during the past six years.
His nomination will have to pass Senate confirmation.
He will replace James Clapper, director of national intelligence under outgoing President Barack Obama from 2010 to the present.
The DNI oversees coordination between disparate agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and others, acting as the president's principal advisor on their work.
As a senator in 2013, Coats defended the NSA after former contractor Edward Snowden revealed it was secretly collecting Americans' phone records en masse.
"The intelligence community is doing exactly what the American people asked for," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
"These programs represent some of the most effective means available to protect the country from terrorist organisations like al Qaeda."
According to reports, Trump wants to reshape and possibly slim down the US intelligence apparatus, a job which could fall to Coats.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer rejected earlier Thursday a Wall Street Journal report that Trump wants to scale back the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and restructure the CIA.
"There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false," Spicer told reporters.
But Senator John McCain said Thursday that he understood that some changes are in the works.
"They're talking about changing the composition of it and stuff, but they're not talking about doing away with the director of national intelligence," he said. — AFP


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