- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2004


President Bush will issue orders as early as today to implement some of the changes suggested by the September 11 commission, but White House officials still are wrangling over the best way to create a new national intelligence director.

Presidential advisers crafting the changes that Mr. Bush is to announce are not opposed to the panel’s idea for a national director of intelligence, but cannot decide whether the post should be placed inside the White House, a senior administration official said yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

The president will embrace the recommendations, “but that doesn’t mean everything is going to be exactly the same” as the panel has suggested, the official said.

Some former intelligence officials worry about establishing another layer of bureaucracy atop the intelligence community. Some members of Congress are warning against knee-jerk acceptance of some of the panel’s recommendations without lengthy evaluation.

Much of the discussion, so far, has centered on where in the government flowchart to place a new national director of intelligence and a national counterterrorism center, which the panel foresees as a joint operational planning and intelligence center staffed by personnel from all intelligence agencies. The commission says the director and the center should be within the executive office of the president.

“We want to ensure that the intelligence operators and analysts maintain their autonomy,” another senior administration official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I think that has got to be a key consideration when you look at the issue of where you place either of those.”

Currently, the CIA director heads his own agency as well as overseeing the intelligence community, which has grown to 15 agencies. But the director has neither budgetary authority nor day-to-day operational control of the other agencies, most of which are part of the Defense Department.

Homeland security is a key issue in this year’s presidential race, and the Bush administration is under pressure to show that it is doing all it can to safeguard the nation from another terrorist attack. Mr. Bush also is under pressure from the 10 members of the September 11 commission, who begin a national tour this week to share their report with the public.

“We need one human being who’s responsible for making sure all that information is shared and one person who can report directly to the president about it,” Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Because of the strengthening of congressional oversight, which is part of the recommendation of the 9/11 commission, I think this thing will work,” Mr. Edwards said.

The Bush administration says it has taken steps that respond to some of the 40 recommendations in the panel’s 567-page report, which outlined intelligence lapses that led to the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

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