- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

When Ronald Reagan was president and Bill Casey was director of central intelligence (DCI), the powers of the DCI expanded enormously. Mr. Casey had Cabinet status and was equal to the secretaries of state and defense in rank and political skill. Under the loosely written National Security Act of 1947, a director's powers could contract or expand as needed and by virtue of the degree of presidential confidence reposed in him. With Mr. Casey, the powers of the DCI reached a pinnacle unseen since the era of Allen Dulles. Since Mr. Casey's death in 1987, a series of CIA directors under three successive presidents have seen their powers diminish steadily.

With the creation of two new undersecretaries for intelligence at the Defense Department and Homeland Security the old director of central intelligence is finished. The primary mission is not over, but it is clear that the 1947 vision of the DCI as the head of the U.S. intelligence community is as outdated as that year's Packard. Welcome to the era of the director of national intelligence (DNI).

It is time to let the director of central intelligence become the director of national intelligence and worry only about managing the CIA. It remains an important job. It is more crucial now than ever for the intelligence provided by the CIA to support the national command authority of the president, the National Security Council and the secretary of state. Only the CIA has a large, worldwide human-intelligence-gathering system. Only the CIA has an operational capability to carry out presidentially approved covert action. Only the CIA is designated as the president's primary all-source intelligence analyst and adviser. These are critical missions that have suffered neglect as the DCI has been drawn into mind-numbing jurisdictional battles to retain control over the entire intelligence community.

America's $37 billion a year intelligence portfolio is spread between government entities from the FBI to the Coast Guard to the lowliest J-2 military intelligence officer in Afghanistan. The DCI controls only 10 percent of the nation's intelligence budget. But that 10 percent requires focus, especially in analyses of intelligence.

Policy-makers at the State Department and the NSC have for years criticized the agency's analyses as too weak, inconclusive, or simply wrong. Various remedies have been proposed, including requiring CIA analysts to present multiple interpretations of their intelligence data from different perspectives in the same report. Other consumers of intelligence prefer more conclusive analyses. Meanwhile, the CIA analytical community grouses privately that policy-makers don't understand the limits of what they can achieve.

The director of national intelligence, or DNI, needs to tackle this issue now. Nowhere was the weakness of CIA analyses more transparently, and tragically, clear than in the August 2001 Crawford, Texas, briefings of President Bush on suspected al Qaeda terrorist plans. The DNI must encourage analysts to take risks, even if it means they are sometimes wrong. The DNI must ensure that analysts have the cutting-edge research technologies to mine the mountains of data arriving daily.

Nor should the DNI ignore the labor-intensive, language-requisite task of combing through the files of friendly liaison agencies. Many do not have computerized files on terrorists and their support networks, but use the old 3x5 index card system and paper reports. It is time to put analysts into the field to assess and collect this information.

With the director focused on the CIA's mission of supporting the president and administration policy-makers, the last step toward reform is to create a deputy national security adviser for intelligence at the National Security Council. The responsibility of this office, answering only to the national security adviser and the president, is to coordinate the three intelligence czars the director of national intelligence, and the undersecretaries for military and homeland intelligence. In this way, no future president will be able to dispel criticism after a failure of the dimensions of September 11 by claiming ignorance of the information developed by the country's various intelligence services. The buck will stop where it should on the president's desk.

[Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of editorials addressing needed reforms within the intelligence community.]

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