The Bush administration's top-to-bottom review of the nation's intelligence capabilities begins today when retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft convenes a panel of outside experts to assess new collection technologies and consider ways for reorganizing the U.S. intelligence community.
A review panel of internal experts, meanwhile, holds its opening session on Thursday, with Joan Dempsey, deputy director of central intelligence for community management, serving as chairwoman.
Both panels were mandated by President Bush when he issued a directive in May, which charged CIA Director George J. Tenet with conducting "a comprehensive review of U.S. intelligence." The process is scheduled to be completed by the end of September.
While final members are still being added to both groups, Scowcroft's panel will include retired Adm. David Jeremiah, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among its seven to nine members, according to one senior intelligence official.
Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser in the Ford and first Bush administrations, has also agreed to serve as the next chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, according to intelligence sources. But no announcement has been made yet by the White House.
The internal panel will have 10 to 12 members, including the deputy directors of the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.
Under the May directive, the two panels are directed to conduct "independent, but parallel, reviews" of four areas: 21st century intelligence threats and priorities; current capabilities; new and "highly advanced" technologies for intelligence collection and analysis; and possible reorganization of the community.
With only three months to complete the review, the Scowcroft group will initially focus on new technology while the Dempsey group will focus on assessing current capabilities, the intelligence official said.
DOE SECURITY: In yet another sign that the Clinton administration is really over, the House Appropriations Committee has recommended a $19.3 million cut in funding for security and emergency operations at the Department of Energy's weapons laboratories, concluding that current security practices may be excessive.
"The Department's safeguards and security programs seem to careen from one incident to another -- alleged loss of nuclear weapons secrets, misplaced computer hard drives with classified information, and alleged discriminatory actions towards visitors," the committee said in a report on a fiscal 2002 appropriations bill.
The committee urged the Bush administration "to review the underlying basis for each of the Department's security practices to determine if current procedures result in excessive costs without commensurate protection for employees, facilities, and national security programs."
The panel also chided the DOE for using citizenship "as a security screening tool," noting that Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) was detained on his way into DOE headquarters by security guards and twice asked whether he was an American, even after the two-term House member of Chinese descent showed his congressional identification.
But it wasn't all that long ago that Congress was lambasting the Clinton administration for lax security and counterintelligence at the weapons labs, citing an espionage investigation at Los Alamos National Laboratory involving physicist Wen Ho Lee as proof that China had stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets.
Congress also closed the weapons laboratories to foreign visitors for a time, the ultimate use of citizenship as a screening tool.