US President George W. Bush has ordered up new measures to bolster the CIA in combating weapons of mass destruction and other threats, directing an agency that lawmakers have accused of engaging in "group think" to present "diverse views" to policy-makers.
The new steps came as part of a response to the Sept. 11 commission's report, presented last summer. In measures he approved last Thursday and announced late Tuesday, Bush elaborated on how he will respond to two recommendations he had previously embraced.
He directed Attorney General John Ashcroft to press ahead with a "specialized and integrated national security work force" within the FBI.
This group includes agents, analysts, linguists and surveillance experts who seek to cultivate "an institutional culture imbued with a deep expertise in intelligence and national security."
Bush also ordered Ashcroft to improve intelligence information-sharing throughout the government.
The Sept. 11 commission urged that the CIA, among other things, beef up its analytic capabilities, build on its human intelligence capacity, strengthen its foreign-language programs and recruit a more diverse force of spies, "so they can blend more easily in foreign cities."
Bush ordered the CIA to bolster its ability to combat weapons of mass destruction through analysis that "routinely considers, and presents to national security policy-makers, diverse views."
The intelligence community was highly criticized in a Senate Intelligence Committee report this summer on its estimate about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
In the unanimously approved report, senators concluded that the CIA kept key information from its own and other agencies' analysts, engaged in "group think" by failing to challenge the assumption that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and allowed Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to make false statements.
The president delayed action on one contentious recommendation. He told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and CIA Director Porter Goss to review within 90 days a commission recommendation that lead responsibility for undercover paramilitary operations should shift to the Pentagon.
The intelligence legislation, which would create a new national intelligence director and national counterterrorism center, failed Saturday when Republican represenatives Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner turned back a last-second deal.
Some Republicans and Democrats in Congress have suggested Rumsfeld had a role in stopping the legislation, which is intended to create a national intelligence director position, because the defense department would lose authority over several intelligence agencies that are part of the military.
Rumsfeld denied this.
"I'm a part of this administration. I support the president's position," he told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Before Bush announced his support for the creation of a national intelligence chief, Rumsfeld had expressed some reservations about proposed changes to the intelligence system, many of which were outlined in the report looking into the Sept. 11 attacks.