President Barack Obama's Director of National intelligence, Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Dennis Blair, is stepping down. Blair's tenure has been controversial, including criticism that he was not as effective as he could have been as the nation's top intelligence official.
In a statement late Thursday, President Obama praised Admiral Blair, saying he had served with great integrity, intellect, and commitment to the United States and the values that Americans hold dear.
Speculation about the departure of one of the president's original high-level appointments had circulated for many months.
He became the focus of criticism within the administration and in Congress about intelligence failures and coordination of information-sharing by U.S agencies.
In a written statement addressed to employees in the intelligence community released after news of his departure was leaked to news organizations, Blair said he had informed President Obama with deep regret that he will step down effective May 28.
Blair made no mention of any of the tensions within the administration or assertions about his performance, as the president's chief adviser on intelligence matters. He praised those in the intelligence community for working to prevent an attack on the U.S.
Blair was the subject of criticism regarding apparent intelligence lapses before the failed attempt last Christmas Day by a young Nigerian man to detonate a bomb on a U.S. airliner and public statements he made in the aftermath of that incident.
A report by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee sharply criticized the National Counterterrorism Center, and other parts of the intelligence community, for a series of intelligence failures that could have prevented that incident.
The Senate report listed several areas of weakness, including problems with terrorist watch listing, and failures in identifying, connecting and disseminating intelligence along with analytical failures.
In a statement, Admiral Blair said the intelligence community had adopted reforms and "is aggressively focused on potential threats" but acknowledged what he called institutional and technological barriers he said continue to prevent seamless sharing of information.
Other events during Blair's tenure included the fatal shootings at Fort Hood, Texas U.S. Army base, and the recent attempt by a young Pakistani-American to set off a car bomb in New York City's Time Square.
Admiral Blair's departure also follows criticism from leaders of the former commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 al-Qaida attacks of continuing problems in information sharing in the U.S. intelligence community.
On Capitol Hill, opposition Republicans who have been critical of the president attempted to connect Blair's departure with what they called Obama administration intelligence failures and disregard for congressional oversight of intelligence.
The position of Director of National Intelligence was created in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States as part of efforts to improve coordination of intelligence. Blair was the third person to serve in the position.