WASHINGTON — The White House issued a classified order this month to resolve mounting frictions between the nation's intelligence director and the CIA over issues including how the agency conducts covert operations, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity because the subject involves classified information.
The White House intervention reflects simmering tension between the two most powerful players in the U.S. intelligence community: director of national intelligence Dennis Blair and CIA director Leon Panetta.
The memo maintains the CIA's status as the nation's lead spy service on covert missions, rejecting an attempt by Blair to assert more control. But the document also includes language detailing the agency's obligation to work closely with Blair on sensitive operations.
The officials said the two sides have sparred in recent months over the CIA's role in Afghanistan, with Blair voicing frustration that the agency has given too little attention to supporting U.S. efforts to strengthen the existing government in Afghanistan and reduce the power of Taliban insurgents.
The White House sided with the CIA on one of the thorniest issues — who would select the top spy representative to countries overseas. The memo establishes that the prestigious posts will always be held by the CIA.