- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

A secret report to outgoing CIA chief George J. Tenet earlier this year warned that one of President Bush’s flagship intelligence reforms, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, could undermine the agency’s offensive operations against suspected terrorists overseas.

The report’s author, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Richard Kerr, declined to discuss his findings or recommendations, but confirmed that he had concerns about consolidating counterterrorist activities in a single center such as the integration center — which Mr. Bush pledged to create in his January 2003 State of the Union speech.

The center is designed to fuse and analyze all information the U.S. government is collecting from every source about terrorist intentions and plans.

Mr. Kerr said the subsequent plan to develop it into a National Counter-Terrorism Center, one of the recommendations of the September 11 commission that the president has embraced, “reaches even farther.”

“The concern is that you dilute the offensive operational efforts” of the CIA, Mr. Kerr said, by deploying its best personnel outside the agency to a center doing essentially defensive work, “mainly concerned with analyzing threats and providing warnings.”

“Those operations have been very effective at stopping terrorist plans, breaking up their infrastructure and capturing their leadership — all overseas. They are critical activities in the war on terror.”

Those offensive operations were at risk, said Mr. Kerr, a frequent consultant to the CIA who also has written a series of reports for Mr. Tenet about the agency’s intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

But another former official who had seen the document said the warning was only a part of Mr. Kerr’s report.

“If that’s all you know,” said Richard Falkenrath, who was deputy homeland security adviser to the president until May, “then you only have a part of the picture.”

Mr. Falkenrath declined to elaborate further on the contents of the report. “It is a classified document,” he said.

Mr. Kerr said his recommendations, delivered to Mr. Tenet in March or April — less than a year after the Terrorist Threat Integration Center came on line — had been “overtaken by events,” when the September 11 commission published its own conclusions in July.

The commission urged the establishment of a National Counter-Terrorism Center, where all counterterror activities of the U.S. government — from special forces operations aiming to kill suspected terrorist leaders to FBI surveillance of U.S. citizens — would be planned.

Nonetheless, concerns about the integration center and its expansion as envisaged by the September 11 commission appear widespread in the CIA.

“Tenet was in an awkward position with [the integration center],” said Mr. Falkenrath. “To make it work, he had to take analytic assets away from the CIA’s own Counter-Terrorism Center. There’s a finite number of good analysts and there was a lot of unhappiness about moving them outside of the CIA.”

A senior intelligence official questioned the wisdom of separating the analysts being sent to the integration center from their colleagues planning and executing operations in the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center.

The official said one advantage of the CIA’s setup was that it kept “the lines of communication between analysts at headquarters and collectors in the field as short as they can be. The [CIA’s center] is about as close as possible to the people gathering the critical human intelligence. … Are you improving fusion by increasing the distance between collectors and analysts?”

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