Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bush criticized on new intelligence chief post

SECURITY REVAMP The US president's plan fails to give the proposed position of intelligence chief enough clout to implement reforms, according to critics


Establishing a national intelligence "czar" would seem sure to shake up Washington's massive spy bureaucracy, but US President George W. Bush's description of the job has been murky and members of the Sept. 11 Commission complained Tuesday his plan doesn't go far enough.

"We will be talking in more detail as we move forward on this," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said in the face of criticism that Bush was too vague about the new director's authority. The unanswered questions mean Congress is likely to play a major role in defining the job and a proposed national counterterrorism center.

"No one is going to listen to this individual" without the ability to hire and fire and control budgets, said former Republican Senator Slade Gorton, a member of the commission.

Bush's proposal departs in key areas from the recommendations of the commission that investigated the deadliest attack on America and faulted the work of intelligence and law enforcement agencies. In particular, the president's blueprint would give the new director authority to "coordinate" the budgets of the nation's 15 intelligence agencies, as the current director has, but not the final say on how much they receive or how they spend it.

Giving the director control over intelligence budgets probably would ignite a turf battle with the Pentagon, which controls a large chunk -- 85 percent by some estimates -- of the nation's US$40 billion-plus intelligence budget.

"I know that Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld is going to oppose it," commission member Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, said Tuesday. Rumsfeld told the commission in March that creating an intelligence czar would be a"great disservice." The commission said the director should have the power to hire and fire the chief of the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI intelligence office and other agencies. But Bush's plan simply envisions giving the director a say in those decisions.

"If you don't have the authority to pick the people, isn't a national director just a shell game and a shell operation?" said Senator Arlen Specter.

Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a Republican member of the Sept. 11 panel, agreed.

"It makes no sense at all unless it has the power to break up bureaucratic layers, to remove bureaucratic layers," said Lehman.

"To carry it out, this national intelligence director has to have hiring and firing power, not just budget coordination power, but budget and appropriations and reprogramming power."

The proposed changes -- including the creation of a national counterterrorism center -- would be perhaps the biggest shakeup of the US intelligence community since the 1947 law establishing the CIA.

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