- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The chairman of one of the Senate’s most powerful committees said yesterday that a national intelligence director to run the nation’s spy agencies might not be necessary, despite the recommendation of the September 11 commission.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said the existing post of director of central intelligence could be raised in stature instead, letting him use his existing powers more freely.

“We could take the current position of the director of central intelligence,” he told a hearing on intelligence reform of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “[and] elevate it to full Cabinet status.”

Advocates of creating a post said Mr. Warner’s opposition provided cover for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has long opposed intelligence restructuring.

“He is carrying the secretary’s water,” one intelligence official said.

Mr. Rumsfeld was cautious on the creation of the new post, saying that although the administration was internally debating the director’s exact role and powers, he was not at liberty to comment or give his personal views.

“I am not in the position to say anything other than ‘the devil’s in the details,’” he told Mr. Warner.

Mr. Rumsfeld was more outspoken on the question of the September 11 commission’s proposal for a national counterterrorism center, which would plan all U.S. operations against terrorism and then assign them to agencies, including the military.

“I think that the statutory responsibilities of departments and agencies pretty much establish where responsibility for operations ought to be,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld later added that the president had advised officials privately “that he does not want anybody in between him and operations. So in terms of the operations in the Central Intelligence Agency or operations in the Department of Defense, the president would not have that [national counterterrorism center] in the middle of that from an operational standpoint.”

Mr. Warner’s opposition to an intelligence chief likely presages a struggle in the Senate, where the heads of two other powerful panels — overseeing intelligence and governmental affairs — have indicated their support for an intelligence chief along the lines of the proposals of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

The director of central intelligence is responsible for coordinating the activities of all 15 U.S. intelligence agencies. But the commission said the person in the post cannot truly direct the other 14 agencies because he cannot hire or fire personnel and controls the spending only of the CIA.

Eight of those 15 agencies are inside the Pentagon, and their spending is controlled by the secretary of defense.

Under the commission’s proposals, four of those agencies, the ones that build and operate the nation’s spy satellites, listening posts and other eavesdropping facilities, would be removed from the Pentagon and put under the new director.

Mr. Warner argued that such a “massive dismemberment of the Department of Defense at this point in time … could result in turbulence” that would damage the military’s ability to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters of the war on terror.

“You have extraordinary powers already on the statute,” Mr. Warner told acting CIA Director John E. McLaughlin, suggesting that raising the existing post to Cabinet pay and status, along with “perhaps some correction … or addition by Congress to the existing powers,” would be sufficient.

“Perhaps we could change it so you’re on an absolute co-equal status and give you the title of NID and try it for a while and see if it would work,” he said.

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