The White House has requested that the CIA and the Pentagon study whether the US Defense Department should take over CIA paramilitary operations, as recommended by the Sept. 11 commission.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-acting CIA Director John McLaughlin rejected the idea -- McLaughlin quite viscerally -- when the commission issued its final report this summer. Bush's request indicates that the administration wants to give the issue closer study.
"The president asked that we look at this to understand and address the specifics of this issue," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday evening.
Both Whitman and a US official, who also confirmed the study on the condition of anonymity, stressed that the work is being done collaboratively. The study is still in its early stages.
The review comes as Congress has reached an apparent stalemate over other sweeping recommendations from the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including the creation of a new national intelligence director.
Within its 40-plus recommendations, the commission recommended the transfer of the CIA's paramilitary operations to the Defense Department. The commissioners said having two such organizations within the government to handle such operations was redundant.
Paramilitary operations can include a host of activities, including training rebel forces; destabilizing governments and organizations through violence; and directly attacking enemy targets and individuals. The operations can be handled by CIA paramilitary teams or units out of the Pentagon, such as the Green Berets or Delta Force.
Pentagon and intelligence leaders have said CIA paramilitaries and military special operations forces each have distinct capabilities, but work well together.
"I think we have a perfect marriage now of CIA and military capabilities. CIA brings to the mix agility and speed. Military brings lethality," McLaughlin said.