- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

President Bush's proposal for a new Homeland Security Department is being greeted with justified skepticism. Congressional action is needed to fix some of the things we know are broken, but one thing we don't need is another ineffective federal bureaucracy. One urgent need is to require the FBI and CIA to cooperate in gathering, analyzing and using intelligence information. The CIA has always been prohibited from collecting intelligence domestically or cooperating with the FBI in doing so. Now, these agencies need to both share and cooperate in actions utilizing that intelligence. But the president's proposal centralizes intelligence gathering and analysis in the new Homeland Security Department. How will the CIA and FBI work better together if the intelligence "fusion" is accomplished somewhere else and not thoroughly integrated with their operations? They just won't. In fact, divorcing intelligence analysis from the operational perspectives and needs of those agencies will defeat the entire purpose of centralizing intelligence functions. We need to strengthen not destroy the link between analyst and operative.
Combining the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is probably necessary to solving the problems created by our absurdly porous borders. The INS if not beyond repair is close to it. The Border Patrol is both severely undermanned and operated in such a politically sensitive manner that, according to Rep. Tom Tancredo, it is under orders to retreat in the face of illegal cross-border incursions by Mexican police and army troops who are apparently escorting illegal aliens and drug smugglers. Mr. Tancredo has asked the Mexican and U.S. governments just what is going on, and hasn't gotten a straight answer yet from either one. Those are answers every American should demand. The culture and mission of the border agencies must be changed. Their function has been law enforcement. Now it must be a quasi-military one, with pre-emption and disruption of the terrorists as the first priority.
Whatever comes out of Congress won't look much like Mr. Bush's proposal. There are more than 80 committees and subcommittees that have jurisdiction over Mr. Bush's initiative, and each one will want to extract its pound of flesh or add its pound of pork. Both sides of the aisle will have to be willing to discipline their members to avoid that. America wants, and needs, quick action to improve the gathering, analysis and application of intelligence to the terrorist threat both here and abroad. Border security is scandalously loose, and the solution isn't creating a new bureaucratic monstrosity. Instead, it lies in reorienting our government and ourselves to the cold, hard fact that our world has changed. We have to change the way we deal with it.


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