- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Senior intelligence officials yesterday told lawmakers that the reforms proposed by the September 11 commission could make matters worse if not done right.

“I can see this being good, I can see this being very bad,” Assistant Director of Central Intelligence Mark Lowenthal told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

If the new national intelligence director proposed by the September 11 inquiry didn’t have sufficient power to really manage the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies, the result would be a “bureaucratic food fight [over] who gets to brief the president, who gets to execute operations,” Mr. Lowenthal told intelligence committee chairman Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican.

Officials from the CIA also asked whether the commission had taken sufficient account of changes in the way the U.S. intelligence agencies did their job since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

“Do the recommendations [of the commission] speak to the [intelligence] community that exists today, or to the one they were investigating, that was there on that morning?” Mr. Lowenthal asked.

Maureen Baginski, the FBI’s new intelligence chief, also was keen to stress the progress made by the bureau, especially in sharing intelligence with state and local law enforcement.

“It’s very, very encouraging,” she told Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat. “I think we are on the right track.”

But Miss Baginski’s assessment was challenged by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat.

Was the information technology needed for intelligence sharing really up and running, Mrs. Eshoo asked, pointing out that a demonstration of the new FBI computer system she had attended in Washington last year had been “a disaster.”

“You use all the right words,” Mrs. Eshoo told Miss Baginski, “but it’s very hard to measure” how much progress was really being made.

Faced with proposals for reform, “A bureaucracy’s natural tendency is to pull back into its shell” Mrs. Eshoo said after the hearing. “There’s a built-in resistance.”

She said the burden was still on the agencies to prove how much more effective they had made themselves. “Our intelligence was not so great in Iraq, that’s pretty recent,” she said.

Mrs. Eshoo also closely questioned CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence Jami Miscik on how widespread was the “visceral reaction” against reform from anonymous CIA officials quoted in the press.

“I am hearing two different things,” she told Miss Miscik. Officials at the hearing were “very positive” about reform, but the views of some rank and file CIA as reported by the media were “pretty much the opposite.”

“I have not seen a resistance to considering [the proposals], to smart reform,” Miss Miscik told her, acknowledging that some might be apprehensive “because they don’t know how it will play out.”

Uncertainty about the end product of the reform process was a recurring theme in the committee’s daylong hearing. “The devil will be in the details,” Miss Miscik said.

Cofer Black, who was running the CIA’s counterterrorism center on September 11 and works as head of the State Department’s anti-terror operation, worried about how the prospect of these as-yet unspecified changes — and those perhaps to come as result of the inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — would affect the morale of those working in the intelligence agencies.

He urged lawmakers to “do this all in one piece for the benefit of the work force.”

“I know better than to promise you that,” Mr. Goss said. “And so do you.”

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