WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Dan Coats to lead the Office of the Director of National intelligence, making him the fifth person to hold the post created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The vote was 85-12. The Office of the Director of National intelligence (ODNI) oversees the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, NSA and FBI – synthesizing information gathered from the intelligence community.
Coats, 73, told lawmakers during his February confirmation hearing that he placed cyber threats at the top of his list of challenges facing the new administration because of its sweeping scope.
Coats — who is the first director who is not career military, intelligence or diplomat — promised to provide unvarnished intelligence to President Donald Trump, and leave his conservative political beliefs out of the job.
“I want to make it very, very clear to all elements of the intelligence community that our job is to do our job. And, our job is not to formulate policy, our job is not to influence intelligence in any way for political reasons, our job is to present the … truth to those who make policy decisions about where we go,” he said at the time.
Coats pledged to back an investigation into any efforts by Russia to influence the 2016 U.S.election. He said that although Russia has historically meddled in foreign elections, the Russians appear to “have stepped up their game.”
He expressed support for keeping the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention center running. He told lawmakers that while he supports the use of the outlawed enhanced interrogation techniques, his job as the director is not to create policy and he will keep those beliefs out of the job.
During the confirmation hearing, Coats did not say if he could provide senators with the number of Americans swept up in communications intercepts under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The controversial surveillance law is up for reauthorization this year.
Coats served in the Senate twice as a Republican from Indiana, from 1989 to 1999 and from 2011 until his retirement last year. He was also the ambassador to Germany.
Coats replaces James Clapper, who retired at the end of the Barack Obama administration.