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Intelligence Panel's Findings Criticized

Experts Call Suggestions Uninformed

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 31, 2005; Page A17

Some of the recommendations to be officially presented today by President Bush's commission on intelligence were already drawing criticism yesterday inside and outside the intelligence community.

One proposal being questioned calls for restructuring the FBI's counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations and analysis under one director, and having that individual report both to the new director of national intelligence as well as to the FBI director.

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Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, who had been briefed by FBI sources on the proposal, said that giving the DNI, whose prime concern is foreign intelligence, a role in domestic counterterrorism operations could create civil liberties issues.

"The attorney general, unlike the intelligence director, has an institutional responsibility to protect constitutional rights and is subject to closer and more transparent congressional scrutiny than intelligence chiefs," Martin wrote in a paper sent yesterday to the commission.

The FBI has over the past two years sharply increased its counterterrorism operations and created a directorate of intelligence that does analysis across the spectrum of bureau activities. One FBI official who reviewed the commission proposal said yesterday he was concerned that creating a new structure would be a problem. "Let the current process work itself out," he said.

Several current and former intelligence officials, who had access to part or all of the report, praised many of its findings and recommendations but said the panel at times ignored changes instituted since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They also criticized the commission for failing to take into consideration complexities of the intelligence business.

For example, the panel criticizes the past performance of human intelligence activities and calls for appointing more CIA case officers to serve overseas outside embassies and without the cover of diplomatic immunity. Such officers take a long time to train and establish themselves abroad, several officials noted yesterday. "Of course we need more," a former senior officer said yesterday. "But they do not realize how hard that is to do."

Another intelligence official said the panel focused on the problems created by different agencies not sharing intelligence information but ignored that "integration takes time, particularly when there is not one single government computer system. You can't build something like that overnight."

The panel makes suggestions for better organization of the intelligence community. The report acknowledges a "problem" in the potential conflict between the new position of DNI and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center but, according to sources, does not make a recommendation for addressing it. The position of DNI, which will be filled by Iraq Ambassador John D. Negroponte, and the NCTC were part of the intelligence reorganization legislation adopted by Congress in December. The NCTC's mission is to fuse all foreign and domestic terrorism intelligence, and to conduct strategic planning for counterterrorism operations at home and abroad.

Under the new intelligence reform statute, the NCTC director is tasked to brief the president on counterterrorism operations, a role that some officials say will undercut the authority of the DNI, who is supposed to be the president's chief adviser on all intelligence activities, including terrorism.

The panel, officially the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, was named in February 2004 and led by senior U.S. Appeals Judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). The nine-member panel will present its findings this morning to Bush.

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