The U.S. intelligence community warned President Obama about instability in Egypt late last year, according to a CIA official.
Stephanie O’Sullivan, the President’s nominee for principal deputy director of national intelligence who currently serves as associate deputy director of the CIA, told the Senate intelligence committee Thursday that the agency briefed Obama. She did not indicate how specific the information they provided was.
“We warned of instability but not exactly where it would come from [and in what form],” she said. “That happened at the end of last year.”
The committee was considering O’Sullivan’s nomination, and O’Sullivan was responding to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about what the president knew about the expected unrest in Egypt and when he knew it.
Wyden was not satisfied by O’Sullivan’s answer and said he wanted more specifics about exactly when Obama was informed about how serious the situation was in Egypt.
But O’Sullivan said she was not directly involved in providing exact information about presidential briefings and her duties involve “a more general understanding of what was going on.”
The answer did not placate Wyden who immediately grew testy.
“You were told yesterday I was going to ask this question,” he insisted.
“Not in this detail,” she responded.
“I think it’s unfortunate we’re not getting more specifics considering you were put on notice,” he said.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) followed up by asking O’Sullivan to provide within 10 days a detailed, written explanation of all the recent presidential briefings involving Egypt.
“As part of our oversight duty we need to make sure we’re evaluating the quality of information that’s getting to the No. 1 customer, which is the President,” Chambliss said.
O’Sullivan agreed to do so and took full ownership for her vague answer.
“Any fault in the answer was entirely mine based on my own background and lack of involvement in the notification process,” she acknowledged.
The Senate is expected to approve O’Sullivan’s nomination quickly without any hiccups. The relatively low-key process stands in stark contrast to debates over nominees for the director of national intelligence, the job envisioned as the most senior Intelligence Community post.
Last summer Obama tapped James Clapper to be the fourth director of national intelligence. He succeeded U.S. Navy Adm. Dennis Blair, who resigned under pressure in mid-May.
The ousting of Blair, the third director to leave in the office’s five-year history, intensified debate over the roles and powers that come with the office. Members of Congress and several former intelligence officials called on Obama to clearly delineate the position’s authority within the intelligence community, especially over budget and personnel matters.
The Senate easily approved Clapper’s nomination by voice vote just before the August Congressional recess, but he initially drew fire from senior GOP members of Congress who said they were especially concerned because he had a record of being less than forthcoming with Congress on a variety of sensitive intelligence matters.
O’Sullivan had nothing but sweetness and light for her would-be boss during her nomination hearing Thursday.
“I can tell you unequivocally that [the CIA] is fully on board with his vision, which resonates with us,” she said. “It’s a focus on mission and integration. It works. We went through a lot of stand-up pains in the beginning…but I believe most of that is behind us.”