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Senate confirms new intelligence chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate confirmed President Barack Obama's nominee to be intelligence chief Thursday after Republicans dropped their objections.

Several Republican senators had delayed, or threatened to delay, the nomination of James Clapper so they could get some intelligence reports from the administration. By Thursday afternoon their requests were satisfied.

Obama nominated Clapper as director of national intelligence in June after ousting Admiral Dennis Blair from the intelligence chief's job.

The nomination was delayed several weeks while some lawmakers questioned whether Clapper, who has served as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, would be too beholden to the Pentagon.

Clapper overcame the doubts of lawmakers on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence when they unanimously approved him last week.

But earlier this week Senator John McCain placed a "hold" -- a procedural move blocking a Senate floor vote -- on the nomination until he got a classified report on an intelligence program.

After McCain lifted his hold, two other Republicans, Kit Bond and Tom Coburn, also threatened to delay the nomination, but backed down when they got intelligence assessments they sought on the threat posed by releasing Guantanamo detainees.

Clapper is the fourth person in five years to hold the director of national intelligence post.

Blair's 16-month tenure was marked by bureaucratic turf battles with the CIA and the White House, and criticism over the intelligence community's failure to prevent a botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner.

Congress created the director of national intelligence post in 2004 to oversee the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, in response to lapses exposed by the September 11 attacks on the United States. But critics say the post has never been given enough authority to be effective.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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