- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger yesterday told senators looking to restructure the nation’s intelligence community that “reforms of the magnitude being talked about” should not be rushed.

Citing a joint statement issued by Mr. Kissinger himself and a host of other former government and political leaders, he said changes “should not be rushed through in the last week of a congressional session, in the middle of a presidential election campaign.”

At issue is the reorganization urged by the commission that investigated the September 11 attacks. Bills are in the works in the House and Senate addressing to various degrees the commission’s main recommendations: the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center and a national intelligence director.

A bill expected to go to the full Senate next week backs creating the new director, who would have hiring and firing power and control over the budgets of intelligence agencies that are not under the Defense Department. House Republican leaders are expected to begin working on legislation this week that also backs the creation of a new director, which President Bush endorsed earlier in the month.

Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday, Mr. Kissinger urged senators not to take “irrevocable legislative action” before examining “what degree of reorganization could be achieved by strengthening the existing institutions and by building on the [existing] director of central intelligence.”

He suggested that the role of the existing director — by law, the director of the CIA — could be augmented without a total reorganization.

Mr. Kissinger, who was national security adviser and secretary of state for President Nixon, initially had been named by President Bush to head the 10-member September 11 commission when it was created in late 2002.

But he resigned that post after only a few weeks amid questions of conflict of interest regarding his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, which he said could not be liquidated without significantly delaying the commission’s work.

His comments yesterday received a mixed reception.

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, said there was a need “between now and the end of the year” to give the president one coordinator over the intelligence community.

“I disagree with the tack of your particular presentation here this morning,” he told Mr. Kissinger. “It strikes me as the old political axiom that ‘When in doubt, do nothing, and stay in doubt all the time.’”

Mr. Kissinger responded: “I am not saying nothing should be done. My major point is it should be done with some deliberation.”

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, agreed, saying, “We should not rush pell-mell into making sweeping intelligence changes.”

Mr. Byrd noted “the disastrous stampede to pass the Iraq war resolution and to create a brand-new Department of Homeland Security in the run-up to the 2002 elections should give us sufficient pause to think twice before we attempt to reorganize crucial intelligence activities with one eye on the clock and one eye on the polls.”

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