- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Current and former intelligence officials yesterday told the commission probing the September 11 attacks that the hijackings demonstrated the need for reform of the country’s intelligence agencies, but they differed on how radical the surgery needed to be.

“Major organizational change is not the salvation,” James R. Schlesinger, former defense secretary and CIA chief, told the bipartisan panel’s fourth public hearing.

But former CIA Director John Deutch told the commission that “a major realignment of intelligence community authorities and responsibilities” is needed to “protect us from terrorist acts and to strengthen more broadly our national security.”

The hearing was partly overshadowed by the panel’s fight for documents from the Bush administration, and by a dispute about the role of its staff director, Philip Zelikow.

Some victims’ families are unhappy about Mr. Zelikow’s role in the inquiry because of his prior job as an aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Commission officials promised a statement within 24 hours on the issue of access to the most sensitive national-security documents, including the presidential daily briefings. “We’ve said we’ll tell you if there is a problem,” said spokesman Al Felzenburg.

Part of the panel’s mandate is to isolate the cause of what commissioner Max Cleland, the former Georgia Democratic senator, called “the worst intelligence failure since the Trojan horse,” when 19 hijackers killed 3,000 people by using jetliners as weapons.

The commission has said it is considering recommending appointment of an intelligence czar and the establishment of a domestic intelligence-gathering agency along the lines of Britain’s MI5.

Yesterday it heard a variety of points of view on those proposals.

Former CIA Assistant Director John Gannon, who now works for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, agreed with Mr. Schlesinger that what he called “major surgery” is not necessary.

In particular, he said in a later interview, he believes there is no need to appoint an intelligence czar.

Instead, he argued for a more corporate-style leadership of the intelligence community by its current head, the director of central intelligence, who is also the chief of the CIA, and for a series of smaller reforms to the way the various intelligence agencies handle analysis.

“I think there are smaller, bite-sized things that can be done that will help move us in a constructive direction,” he told the panel, including better use of outside expertise and “open source” or unclassified information.

Richard J. Kerr, another former senior CIA official, told the panel the work of the intelligence community is already centralized enough, pointing to the meeting that CIA head George J. Tenet holds every evening with representatives of all the intelligence agencies, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. He said those meetings are unique, because “the guy at the top of the organization [is] making operational-level decisions.”

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