- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Pentagon would be stripped of its control over intelligence assets critical to fighting wars under the September 11 commission’s recommendation for a national intelligence director, the bipartisan panel’s leaders told Congress yesterday.

It is for that precise reason that “one of the national intelligence director’s deputies must be the Defense Department’s undersecretary for intelligence,” September 11 commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton said in a joint statement to the House Armed Services Committee.

Such an undersecretary — the post currently is held by Stephen A. Cambone — would be well-suited to be a deputy because his current job is to balance U.S. intelligence resources “to satisfy both the needs of the war fighter and the national policy-maker,” Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton said.

The remarks came as part of the September 11 commission’s continuing effort to persuade Congress to endorse the recommendations in the commission’s 567-page final report, the most significant of which calls for the creation of the national intelligence director and center.

The director would oversee the entire U.S. intelligence community, including agencies currently under Pentagon control, such as the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The White House has announced support for the commission’s recommendation for a national intelligence director, although President Bush has not specifically endorsed the plan to give the director control of the intelligence communities’ multiple budgets.

Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton enjoyed a largely warm welcome from the Armed Services Committee, although the committee’s chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, expressed doubts about the need to shift control of defense intelligence agencies away from the Pentagon.

Mr. Hunter said that in his own reading of the September 11 commission’s report, he’d come across no “specific mention or instance of a failure or a negligence on the part of a [Department of Defense] agency.”

He then asked Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton whether any such failures were noted in the report. The commissioners acknowledged that there were not, but stressed that an overall lack of coordination between agencies within the intelligence community contributed to the nation’s failure to stop the September 11 plot.

Mr. Kean pointed to former CIA Director George J. Tenet’s 1998 declaration of war on al Qaeda as an example.

“That’s a very important thing when the head of an intelligence agency declares war,” Mr. Kean said. “Nobody got it in other agencies.

“If you have that coordinated and that declaration of war had been made under the system we recommend, the military, the diplomatic side, the intelligence side, they all would have gotten it, and the nation would have moved as one,” he said, adding, “The Defense Department being part of that coordination, is very, very important, we think, for the future defense of the country.”

Under the September 11 commission’s proposal, a Senate-confirmed national intelligence director wouldn’t be a Cabinet-level post, but would have hiring and firing power and control over budgets of the intelligence community’s 15 agencies, which include the CIA and FBI.

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