29 June 2005

White House Shake Up of Spooks

Damned if you do -- damned if you don't. In a very strong move, President Bush has ordered a San Andreas-like shake-up of the national intelligence agencies. However, the Anti Christian Lawyers Union claims the move erodes constitutional protections against law enforcement actions.

The President directed in Executive Order 13328 the formation of the bipartisan, independent Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction ("“Commission"”) to advise him on improving the intelligence capabilities of the United States, particularly with respect to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

President Bush welcomed the report of the Commission. In its final report, the Commission offered a series of detailed, thoughtful and far-reaching recommendations, including several describing significant change America'’s Intelligence Community must undertake to confront the national security threats of the 21st Century. The President committed in the Executive Order to consult with Congress within 90 days of receiving the Commission'’s report and recommendations.

The President asked Frances Fragos Townsend, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, to oversee a comprehensive review of the recommendations. Over the past three months, interagency expert panels studied the recommendations and provided advice on how each might be implemented to improve the quality and timeliness of intelligence provided by the Intelligence Community. These review panels - with the concurrence of the President’s senior advisors on national and Homeland security - endorsed the objectives articulated in 70 of the 74 recommendations in the Commission’s report. Three recommendations by the Commission will require further study, while a single recommendation from the classified portion of the Commission’s report was not endorsed.

President Bush has acted to implement these recommendations, including by:

  • Establishing a National Counter Proliferation Center to manage and coordinate the Intelligence Community'’s activities related to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, as well as their delivery systems;
  • Signing an Executive Order to combat trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and related materials by blocking (or freezing) the assets of persons engaged in proliferation activities and their supporters;
  • Directing the creation of a National Security Service within the Federal Bureau of Investigation to capitalize on the FBI’s progress, and to fully integrate the FBI’s intelligence elements into the broader Intelligence Community;
  • Directing the reorganization of the Department of Justice to bring together its primary national security elements to enhance collaboration and ensure a unified approach to national security matters; and
  • Clarifying authorities concerning information sharing by granting the Director of National Intelligence authority and control over the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment.

The Director of National Intelligence, and other members of the Administration, will take many further actions in the coming months to implement Commission recommendations and related provisions of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to improve the work of America’s intelligence agencies.

The Administration calls upon the Congress to act swiftly to implement other key Commission recommendations, including by:

Further actions by the Congress may be required to implement the Commission’s classified recommendations, and to support the Director of National Intelligence as he develops more detailed plans for implementing recommendations in the human resources and other areas.

The Administration also encourages the Congress to reform its structures for intelligence oversight, including by careful consideration of the recommendations in Chapter 6 of the Commission'’s report and similar, previous recommendations in the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Well done, Mr. President, well done indeed.

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