In the two years since the Sept. 11 attacks, a group of veterans from the CIA, FBI and Pentagon has been quietly trying to figure out how to help shape the debate over intelligence reform in the wake of the attacks. They say the place to start is a drastic realignment of the way the US conducts intelligence and counterterrorism operations within its borders.
And, in the best spirit of media-drenched, modern-day Washington, they are taking their case public.
On Monday, two members of this private group testified before the independent commission on the Sept. 11 attacks to urge an overhaul of domestic intelligence.
John MacGaffin, a former senior CIA official, and John Hamre, a deputy defense secretary in the Clinton administration, recommended that a new domestic intelligence service be created within the FBI, but that it be managed by the director of central intelligence.
Their proposal falls short of calling for a new domestic spy agency like Britain's MI-5. That is a result of sharp divisions within the group over whether the FBI should be given another chance to prove that it can handle domestic intelligence.
"Our group was divided on the question of whether or not we felt the FBI could make this transition," Hamre told the commission.
The group is made up of former officials from intelligence and law enforcement, and consists of Robert Bryant, former deputy director of the FBI; MacGaffin, former associate deputy director for operations at the CIA; Paul Redmond, former chief of counterintelligence at the CIA; Jeffrey Smith, former general counsel of the CIA; Howard Shapiro, former general counsel of the FBI; Jack Lawn, a former senior FBI official; and Hamre.
They have decided to focus on domestic intelligence in part because it is an issue that is still up for grabs in Washington.
The Bush administration has so far rejected proposals to create a new domestic intelligence agency.
Instead, it has embarked on a series of measures short of that, including the creation of a terrorist threat analysis organization jointly run by the CIA and FBI.
But there is strong interest in Congress in more comprehensive reform, and the Sept. 11 commission seems likely to recommend creating an independent domestic intelligence agency.