June 8, 2004


Tenet's Departure May Ease an Overhaul of Intelligence: The departure of George Tenet as C.I.A. director may remove one obstacle to an overhaul that would make him the last person to hold the job in its current form (DOUGLAS JEHL and PHILIP SHENON, 6/08/04, NY Times)

Another Democrat on the panel, Tim Roemer, a former House member from Indiana, said the departures this summer of both Mr. Tenet and the C.I.A.'s director of operations, James Pavitt, were part of a "perfect storm" that could open the way to an overhaul of the intelligence community, including the creation of the post of national intelligence director to oversee all intelligence agencies.

Most proponents of restructuring intelligence agencies argue that the country's primary intelligence chief needs more power, not less, to control budgets, resolve disputes, avoid overlap and fill gaps among the many intelligence agencies. But any recommendation for change would face resistance from agencies like the Pentagon that could lose power in a reorganization, and it is not clear whether any plan could win approval before Congress ends an abbreviated session in this election year.

The national intelligence post's creation was a central recommendation of a joint Congressional investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, an inquiry on which Mr. Roemer also served. He said he would urge the independent commission to make the same recommendation, although he would not predict the outcome of the panel's deliberations.

"We need a centralized authority for these 15 disparate agencies," Mr. Roemer said. "I generally support the concept of a director of national intelligence."

Commission members said that the panel was in the middle of deliberations about the structure of the narrative portion of the report and that it had not begun to debate in earnest recommendations for change in the nation's intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

This is not reform but a reorganization of the same intelligence system that has consistently failed us since its creation in WWII.

Racing to Ruin the C.I.A. (ROBERT M. GATES, 6/08/04, NY Times)

The impetus to create the new position comes from an acknowledgment that the director of central intelligence has too little real authority. But there are more realistic measures to strengthen his hand in integrating and managing foreign intelligence agencies. They lack the pizazz and headline potential of a new White House position, but they are politically feasible and could be done more quickly. They would also actually improve intelligence collection and analysis.

First, we should give the director of central intelligence total budget authority over all aspects of the National Foreign Intelligence Program. In short, give him the authority to unilaterally move people and money among the agencies and elements of the national intelligence program. Then he could not only set priorities, but also make sure the agencies carry them out. In this, he might be required to consult with the secretary of defense — but not to seek the Pentagon's concurrence. The director of central intelligence alone would be held accountable for his decisions to the intelligence committees and armed services committees of Congress.

Second, for those agencies that have military as well as intelligence responsibilities — like the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — the secretary of defense should have to send his nomination of their leaders to the intelligence director, who would decide whether to appoint them. Their tenure, too, would be determined by the director of central intelligence.

In addition, the president and Congress, on a bipartisan basis, should agree on a long-term growth rate for the intelligence budget. Intelligence is a profession of experience. Clandestine field officers, analysts and technical collection programs all require 5 to 10 years to develop, on average. The security challenges we face, terrorism above all, will be with us for many years. Budgets are too often raised after a crisis or catastrophic event only to be reduced two or three years later as memory fades. This is a formula for inadequacy and failure. Predictability of resources is essential.

Also, the failures of our agencies related to Islamic terrorism and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction make clear the need for changes in the way analysis and clandestine operations are conducted at the C.I.A. That will be the challenge facing the new leadership at the agency, and it should be the subject of discussions among the next director of central intelligence, the president and the Congressional intelligence committees. Sorting the solutions out in public is not conducive to more effective American intelligence gathering.

Note that the former Director is most concerned with the reshuffling not the problems with the quality of information gathered? Meanwhile, his suggestion that these problems shouldn't be aired in public is part and parcel of why they exist in the first place. An intelligence agency that aggressively publicized what we believe to be the "secret truth" about other countries would be far preferable to the current one which is so secretive that no one corrects their typically inaccurate assessments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 8, 2004 2:53 PM

Wow. It's not often that you come across a proposal that is politically untenable, unconstitutional, and a bad idea. The Trifecta.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 8, 2004 4:47 PM