- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004


Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence proposed removing the nation’s largest intelligence-gathering operations from the CIA and the Pentagon and putting them directly under a new national intelligence director.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and the committee chairman, yesterday outlined the most sweeping intelligence reorganization proposal offered by anyone since the September 11 commission called for major changes. In an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mr. Roberts acknowledged that full details had yet to be shared with either the White House or with Senate Democrats.

“We didn’t pay attention to turf or agencies or boxes,” but rather to “what are the national-security threats that face this country today,” Mr. Roberts said of the proposals supported by eight Republican members of the intelligence committee. “I’m trying to build a consensus around something that’s very different and very bold.”

But he immediately ran into some resistance from a Democrat on his committee. Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said that before appearing with Mr. Roberts on the CBS program, neither he nor the committee’s ranking Democrat, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, had seen the full proposal.

“I think it would be better to start on a bipartisan basis,” Mr. Levin said. “I think it’s a mistake to begin with a partisan bill, no matter what is in it.”

Rand Beers, national security adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, welcomed Mr. Roberts’ proposal and described it as similar to Mr. Kerry’s proposals. But he added that bipartisan support would be needed, as well as leadership from President Bush.

“Bush still appears to be dragging his feet and resisting any real changes,” Mr. Beers said.

The White House was noncommittal.

“We look forward to reviewing the details of Senator Roberts’ proposal,” said White House spokesman Brian Besanceney. “We have taken nothing off the table.”

The commission that investigated the September 11 terrorist attacks called for a powerful national intelligence director who could force the nation’s many agencies to cooperate.

Up to now, the debate has focused on how much power to give that official rather than on retooling agencies. Most Democrats have supported the commission’s proposal that the new director have authority over hiring and spending by the intelligence agencies. Mr. Bush has endorsed creating the position but has not reached a final decision on what powers the office should have.

Mr. Roberts said his aides had spoken with White House officials and would share the details of his proposal with them today.

Mr. Roberts’ plan would put the CIA’s three main directorates — Operations, which runs intelligence collection and covert actions; Intelligence, which analyzes intelligence reports; and Science and Technology — into three new, separate and renamed agencies, each reporting to a separate assistant national intelligence director.

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