WASHINGTON (AP) – National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair is replacing the agency’s inspector general with his own pick, an attorney from the Justice Department, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The move highlights the ambiguous status of the supposedly independent investigative office.

The outgoing inspector general, Edward Maguire, confirmed to a House Intelligence subcommittee Wednesday that he would be leaving the office he has held for nearly five years. Maguire made that disclosure as he testified about a critical report he authored on the intelligence agency’s structure and previous leadership.

Maguire will be replaced by Roslyn Mazer, investigative counsel in the oversight and review division of the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general where she led reviews of the FBI’s compliance with attorney general guidelines, the use of national security letters, and allegations of misconduct by department personnel. She has served in the Justice Department for more than 14 years, including as associate deputy attorney general, according to her official biography.

Blair’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, said Friday that the decision to replace Maguire had nothing to do with the report. She said Maguire’s departure clears the way for Blair to bring in his own leadership team.

Watchdog role

Maguire has been the first and only inspector general in the intelligence office. He was appointed in July 2005 to serve under then-director John Negroponte, and continued in the job under Mike McConnell.

Inspectors general are traditionally independent watchdogs who investigate corruption, waste and fraud in their own agencies. In most cases they are appointed by the president to be an independent voice inside the executive branch.

But the 2004 law that created the national intelligence director’s office gave the director the power to hire and fire his IG.

The intelligence director also controls hiring and salaries in the office. A hiring freeze was imposed, Maguire testified, which forced him to spend much of his office’s budget hiring contractors to carry out projects his staff cannot handle.

“We are not independent vis-a-vis the DNI because he can put us out of business. That is a substantial weakness in our ability to do work,” Maguire told the House Intelligence subcommittee this week.

During his appearance, Maguire testified about a critical assessment of the management of U.S. intelligence agencies by the DNI’s office. The IG report was delivered to the DNI in November, 2008, but not released until this week.

Maguire found that the majority of DNI and other intelligence employees interviewed by his staff were unable to articulate a clear understanding of the DNI’s role.

Many were confused about the chain of command and criticized the flow of information in and out of the office. Maguire also criticized the DNI for slow progress on writing and releasing guidelines to the 16 agencies under its authority. And Maguire said the intelligence officials told of a steep drop in satisfaction with McConnell’s policies and respect for his senior leaders.

The six-month delay between completing the report and its delivery to Capitol Hill was a symptom of the office’s lack of independence, Maguire said. It was held up by the DNI’s “front office,” he said.

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