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  Latest News  
  August 30,  2004
Volume 82, Number 35
p. 5


Proposal would dismantle CIA, move some key Pentagon intelligence agencies


Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kan.) proposal for remodeling the nation's intelligence community isn't the first, but it is the most sweeping, surpassing even the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Unlike other plans, it moves beyond defining the power of a so-called National Intelligence Director (NID).

In a surprise announcement on a recent talk show, Roberts unfurled a plan that realigns key elements of the intelligence community into a new entity called the National Intelligence Service. His plan, which he calls "real reform," would dismantle the Central Intelligence Agency and loosen the Pentagon's grip on the nation's $40 billion intelligence budget.

If the proposal should become law, it leaves unclear the fate of Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), whom President George W. Bush nominated for CIA director.

Roberts, who chairs the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, crafted the proposal without notifying the White House and with no input from committee Democrats. Response to it has been tepid at best, damning at worst.

President Bush has been noncommittal, saying he would study all the options. Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-Mass.) presidential campaign has indicated tentative support. Congressional Democrats cite the absence of bipartisanship, and intelligence officials criticize the plan as a step back from greater interagency cooperation. Nevertheless, it is likely to frame the upcoming congressional debate on intelligence reform.

The plan's boldest aspect would convert the CIA's three main directorates--operations, intelligence, and science and technology--into three separate agencies, all under the NID's control. Three of the Pentagon's largest intelligence agencies--the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Human Intelligence Directorate--would also be placed under the NID.

Additionally, the plan would give the NID budget and personnel authority over the intelligence units of the Departments of Treasury, Energy, Homeland Security, and State, as well as the remaining analytical elements of the DIA. On a day-to-day basis, however, these units would continue to report to their respective home agencies.

The FBI's counterintelligence and counterterrorism units would continue to operate within the FBI for administrative purposes and would remain subject to Attorney General guidelines, but their budgetary and personnel authority would come from the NID.

In congressional testimony on intelligence reform, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned, "If we move unwisely and get it wrong, the penalty would be great." Perhaps heeding this advice, Roberts plan sets up a separate assistant NID for military support and a four-star general for military intelligence who would run the Pentagon's tactical intelligence units and report to the defense secretary but liaise with the NID.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.)--who is vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee but was not privy to proposal deliberations--is concerned "that disbanding and scattering the CIA at such a crucial time would be a severe mistake."

Former CIA director George J. Tenet echoes Rockefeller's fear in a written statement that blasts the Roberts plan as an "ill-conceived" scheme for gutting the CIA. "This proposal reflects a dangerous misunderstanding of the business of intelligence," one that "would damage U.S. national security rather than improve it," Tenet says.

Rockefeller also observes that Roberts' proposal "departs significantly from the 9/11 Commission's blueprint for reform." The commission's recommendations set up an NID to oversee all intelligence agencies but did not call for dismantling the CIA or removing some intelligence agencies from Pentagon control. Commission Deputy Chairman Lee H. Hamilton says: "We're looking at these differences. We are going to have to work through them."

  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004

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