Contact: John M. Miller, National Coordinator, ETAN
Ed McWilliams (former political counselor, US Embassy, Jakarta)
January 22 - First, ETAN fully supports Senator Wyden's call that
the cables and reports of Adm. Blair's contacts with the Indonesian
military (TNI) be turned over to the committee (and we would urge
publicly released). We appreciate Senator Feingold's pledge to
quickly release Adm. Blair's responses to committee questions. We
look forward to reading and analyzing those relevant to his actions
concerning Indonesia and East Timor in 1999.
Senator Feinstein, quoting former Secretary of Defense Perry, as
well as media reports, have described Adm. Blair as someone who
"thinks outside the box." However, his actions in 1999 reflected a
longstanding pattern of official thinking that had reinforced the
worst human rights crimes by Indonesia in East Timor and elsewhere
for decades. The conventional thinking at the time was to value a
good relationship with the TNI above any other goal - especially
human rights accountability - regardless of results. Blair's actions
at the time showed how deeply embedded he was in the that "box,"
even as U.S. policy was changing. His actions prior to East Timor's
referendum certainly failed to temper the Indonesian military's
behavior. This was not surprising given the long history of U.S.
military engagement enabling Indonesia's worst human rights
Blair's troubling record on East Timor shows a mind set which places
maintaining a relationship with the worst human rights violators
over justice and accountability. This sets a poor precedent for his
future role in supervising U.S. intelligence agencies. Partnering
with foreign militaries and intelligence agencies that
systematically violate human rights has been a regular part of the
"war on terrorism." This needs to change.
Adm. Blair, responding to Senator Wyden, said that accusations
concerning his actions during 1999 in relation to Indonesia did not
come up until 2002. However, the most comprehensive media reports on Adm Blair's actions were published in September 1999 and September
2000. According to these reports, Adm. Blair's approach in spring
1999 was all carrot and little or no stick, and contrary to his
statements before the committee today he did not deliver a message
that Indonesia's security forces needed to end their violence.
Allan Nairn published an article September 27, 1999 issue of the
Nation describing his actions during the previous Spring. Based on
official reports of his meetings, Nairn concluded that Adm. "Blair,
rather than telling Wiranto to shut the militias down, instead
offered him a series of promises of new US assistance." [http://etan.org/et99b/september/26-30/27nairn.htm]
Dana Priest's profile of Admiral Blair appeared in the Washington
Post almost exactly a year later on Sept. 20, 2000 [http://etan.org/news/2000a/01wpblair.htm].
She reported that Blair "told Wiranto that he 'looks forward to the
time Indonesia will resume its proper role as a leader in the
region,'according to U.S. officials who reviewed a cable written
about the trip. He invited Wiranto to a seminar in Hawaii and
promised to train troops in crowd control. Blair also said he would
work to reinstate the IMET program and was hopeful Congress would
back it. Wiranto maintained that the military was being 'unfairly
blamed' for supporting anti-independence militias." Priest does not
say whether Blair agreed with Wiranto's statement.
Priest goes on to write that "over the next week" Blair learned of
the brutal massacre in Liquica. The massacre took place two days
before Blair's April 8 meeting with Wiranto. Initial reports of
the attack appeared quickly in the press. [see a sampling of media
reports at http://etan.org/et99/april/default.htm]. East Timorese
Bishop Belo, a Nobel peace laureate, held a press conference to
decry the massacre on Wed., April 7, the day before Blair met with
The UN, International Committee of the Red Cross, the Portuguese
government and imprisoned East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao all
quickly addressed the violence.
If the goal of Blair's April meeting with Wiranto was to urge an end
to the violence of Indonesia's security forces and their militia
proxies, it would be very surprising if Blair had not been informed
of the attack beforehand. If the meeting was just meant to make nice
with the TNI commander, his failure to pay attention to the most
recent events on the ground might be more understandable.
see also Adm. Blair Poor Choice
as Director of National Intelligence, Says Rights Group; Blair 's
History with Indonesia and East Timor Raises Questions about Likely
ETAN Urges President-elect Obama Not to Appoint Adm. Blair Director
of National Intelligence;
ETAN Menolak Adm. Blair
sebagai Kepala Intelijen Nasional
Blair "undermined U.S. policy in the run-up to the
referendum in East Timor," said Edmund McWilliams, who was political
counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at the time.
"While we (U.S. diplomats) were pressuring the
(Indonesian) military to rein in its militias and stop their
intimidation of voters, Blair went out of his way to befriend senior
officers, especially (Defense Minister) Gen. Wiranto," McWilliams
told United Press International.
Wiranto, who like many Indonesians uses just one
name, was indicted in 2003 by a U.N.-backed court in East Timor for
his role in the 1999 violence, which cost hundreds of lives before
the referendum, and thousands after it.
As Pacific Command chief, Blair's "virtual silence
on the (Timor) issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led
them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese,"
"This is a relevant issue today, because partnering
with bad militaries is something we have done a lot of (as part of
the war on terrorism) and something we should be concerned about,"
Blair could not be reached for comment, and nominees
traditionally do not speak publicly ahead of their confirmation
hearings. An administration official told UPI that U.S. policy was
to work "to bring about East Timorese independence and to stop the
abuses by the Indonesian military."
The official said Blair's actions were "in
accordance with U.S. government policy at the time," adding, "Blair
condemned the conduct of Indonesian troops in East Timor, and he
conveyed that if they behaved responsibly, the United States was
prepared to resume normal relations. If they did not, they risked
further negative consequences."
Observers said questions likely also will be raised
about his judgment in relation to an alleged conflict of interest
during his tenure as head of the funded research center called the
Institute for Defense Analyses after he retired as head of Pacific
Command in 2002.
Watchdog non-profit the Project on Government
Oversight found that Blair had overseen an assessment by the
institute of the new F-22 military aircraft while being a
stockholder and board member for two subcontractors working on the
A Defense Department inspector general report found
he had breached conflict-of-interest standards, and Blair resigned
as head of the institute.
But few expect Blair to get a hard time at
Thursday's hearing. "I don't think those issues are going to pose
much of a challenge," said Christopher Preble, director of foreign
policy at the libertarian Cato Institute.
Supporters point to his long experience in
intelligence and say he is an "out of the box" thinker. In February
1999, for instance, when he took over as chief of Pacific Command,
he established the Virtual Information Center, an open-source
intelligence collection and analysis unit. According to a fact sheet
provided by Pacific Command public affairs staff, the center is
staffed by contractors operating outside the traditional military
intelligence and operational structures "to provide a separate,
independent view" of regional issues.
The center's products "complement (the) classified
intelligence picture; (and) provide key data on dominant Asian press
discourse including Asian reactions to domestic and world events,"
states the fact sheet. Because they are unclassified, they also can
be shared instantly with Pacific Command's international partners.
The center's four contractors use non-military
Internet accounts "to allow access to Web sites that block .mil
accounts and to facilitate communications with non-government
entities," the fact sheet says.
But the questions that are likely to concern
senators on the Intelligence Committee relate to big challenges
Blair will face in his new job, according to a staffer who asked for
"There will be bigger questions for the (director of
national intelligence) related to whether our intelligence structure
is suited to our current needs," said the staffer, adding that the
recently overhauled organizational chart for the nation's spy
agencies "absolutely" still needed tweaking. As an example, he said,
"The way we set (intelligence) requirements needs work."
In addition, he said, there would be questions about
"whether there are still too many big acquisition programs that are
a legacy of Cold War thinking."
"We don't have a good road map for where our
overhead architecture needs to be in the next 15 to 20 years," the
staffer continued, using the intelligence term of art for spy
satellites, "and that's the time frame you need to be thinking
about, because those things take a long time to build and launch."
Several large spy satellite programs have been
slammed as overly expensive or less than efficacious by lawmakers in
recent years, although most of the criticisms have been raised in
secret, closed sessions, with only an occasional eruption into the
Preble told UPI such secrecy was "one of the top
issues that the new administration has to confront. … How much
information really has to be kept out of the public's hands?"
"The burden of proof should always be on those
making the argument for secrecy," Preble said.
Last year lawmakers attempted to push several pieces
of legislation dealing with what experts call over-classification,
the seemingly intractable pressure within intelligence agencies to
keep too much of their business secret.