- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2002

The ranking Republican on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee says he believes both the FBI and CIA need "major reform" and that a White House entity is needed to "take a broad look at the deficiencies and requirements of our intelligence community."
"I am very concerned about our intelligence community. Our counterintelligence capabilities, our counterterrorism capabilities are not what they should be. There needs to be major reform in the CIA and FBI," Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said yesterday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields."
The House and Senate intelligence panels are jointly investigating intelligence failures leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is examining President Bush's plan for a new Department of Homeland Security, which would consolidate many federal agencies, but not the CIA and FBI.
Asked on CNN whether he thinks the CIA and FBI should be part of the new department, Mr. Thompson said: "I don't think we need to do it in this bill because I don't think we've got time. But I think after we do this, we need to go back and ask whether or not part of the FBI, perhaps, should be [integrated] into this new entity, or [whether] a whole new entity along the British lines should be created."
Such issues, Mr. Thompson said, are "just as important as the homeland security bill" itself. "But I think that will have to be addressed next year."
Mr. Thompson will not be in the Senate next year. He announced in March he would not be seeking re-election in November.
Mr. Thompson, along with many Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress, have also called for a separate probe by an independent blue-ribbon commission into the intelligence failures leading up to September 11. On CNN yesterday, Mr. Thompson said he is "still entertaining" that possibility.
He said he is "skeptical" the intelligence committees probe will be able to get all the documents, other information and follow-up opportunities that are required, given that "we've got this deadline that we imposed on ourselves." Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House intelligence panel, has said he wants the investigation completed and the report written by January of next year.
But Mr. Thompson stressed that "only the right kind of commission" can do the job. "We don't need another commission just to investigate '9/11.' We need an entity and this could come out of the White House to take a broad look at the deficiencies and requirements of our intelligence community," he told co-hosts Robert Novak and Al Hunt.
Mr. Hunt said it appears Mr. Bush's proposal for a Homeland Security Department is "unraveling," given that "various House committees have voted against putting Secret Service, INS, FEMA, Lievermore Lab and the Coast Guard into any new homeland security agency, all of which the White House requested." He asked Mr. Thompson if this was a "hastily assembled, ill-considered" plan.
"I don't think it was ill-considered. I think it was probably put together more rapidly than was ideal. Therefore, it's going to take a little time to figure all these issues out," Mr. Thompson said.
The Tennessee Republican said the Bush administration "ought to be given the best shot they have to make their plan work and then have the accountability for doing that."
"We shouldn't be picking too much around the edges of this," said Mr. Thompson. He urged that the person chosen to head the new department be given "substantial flexibility," since so much is unknown at this point.
The senator also said he believes Mr. Bush's approach for dealing with corporate fraud is "reasonable." But he said he hopes the legislation that emerges from Congress does not include "bad ideas" such as setting standards for what "people could make or not make in private America."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide