Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Bush administration has agreed to set up a new interagency center to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction, U.S. officials said.

The creation of the National Counterproliferation Center will be announced today, along with a series of reforms recommended by a presidential panel in March, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, has selected Kenneth Brill, until recently the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, to head the new anti-proliferation center.

Conservatives in the administration and on Capitol Hill say Mr. Brill is a career Foreign Service officer who is not suited for the proliferation center job.

“We expected to see someone with operational and intelligence experience, not somebody who is a Foreign Service officer,” one senior Senate aide said.

Mr. Brill is viewed by conservatives as opposed to the Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative, the international effort to disrupt proliferation-related shipments on the seas — and eventually on land and in the air.

Other officials said Mr. Brill’s selection appears to be an effort by Mr. Negroponte, a career diplomat, to place Foreign Service personnel in positions of dominance over the intelligence community.

Mr. Brill could not be reached for comment.

The top analyst under Mr. Negroponte is Thomas Fingar, a Foreign Service officer and State Department intelligence analyst who recently told intelligence officials under him that he is not planning any dramatic reforms in the intelligence analysis system.

The presidential panel, headed by Laurence H. Silberman, a former deputy attorney general, and former Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat, issued a report in March that harshly criticized U.S. intelligence agencies for failing to properly assess the arms programs of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, as the panel is formally called, made 74 recommendations.

Those that will be adopted will be announced today by Frances Fragos Townsend, a White House adviser on homeland security issues.

A White House spokesman confirmed that the recommendations will be made public today.

Among the measures to be adopted will be new procedures to improve the flow of dissenting intelligence reports, and plans for a FBI national security service that will seek to improve intelligence-gathering activities, officials said.

The proliferation center is expected to have fewer than 100 people and will work on improving coordination of U.S. government efforts to analyze and take action against the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile delivery systems.

The center will replace the CIA-dominated Counterproliferation Center.

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