- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush, embracing nearly all the recommendations of a White House commission, said yesterday he was creating a national-security service at the FBI to specialize in intelligence as part of a shake-up of the disparate U.S. spy agencies.

A fact sheet describing the White House’s broad acceptance of changes said three recommendations were under review and a fourth, which remained classified, was rejected.

Mr. Bush also issued an executive order allowing the freezing of any financial assets in the United States of people, companies or organizations involved in the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The order designates eight organizations in Iran, North Korea and Syria. Americans also are barred from doing business with them.

“This really is intended to take what we’ve found to be a very effective tool against terrorism targets … and expand that to counterproliferation targets,” said Bush homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said the order sends a message that “if you deal in weapons of mass destruction, you’re not going to use the U.S. financial system to bankroll or facilitate your activities.”

Many of the intelligence changes deal with the bureaucracy. But Mrs. Townsend said it was not just a reshuffling of boxes, but a “fundamental strengthening” of intelligence agencies.

Those changes include directing the Justice Department to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage and intelligence units.

Mr. Bush also will ask Congress to create an assistant attorney general position to help centralize those operations. Mr. Bush wrote in a memo to intelligence-agency leaders that “further prompt action is necessary” at the Justice Department and FBI to address security challenges.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III will share authority for choosing the head of the new service with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who also will have a say in the unit’s budget. Though FBI directors have long guarded the bureau’s autonomy, Mr. Mueller said, “I don’t see it as a loss of independence at all.”

In March, a nine-member commission led by Republican Laurence Silberman, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and former Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat, presented a scathing 600-page report about U.S. intelligence agencies and their ability to understand and protect against the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Robb said it was “truly extraordinary” that Mr. Bush accepted so many of the commission’s proposals.

“By embracing 70 of the 74 recommendations, the commission’s batting average is now almost .950. Even Ted Williams would have envied that,” Mr. Robb said in a written statement, referring to the last major league baseball player to hit over .400.

A recommendation that the White House left for further review would have the national intelligence director hold accountable those organizations that contributed to the flawed assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs.

The administration said that the intelligence director was still reviewing the need for reforms “that may include greater [director of national intelligence] oversight and changes in organizational roles and responsibilities.”


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