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Intelligence Bill Passage

Dr. James Jay Carafano
Heritage Foundation
Thursday, December 9, 2004; 10:00 AM

Congress easily passed legislation revamping the nation's intelligence community. The landmark legislation will significantly restructure the intelligence community -- creating the new position of director of national intelligence as well as a national counterterrorism center.

Dr. James Jay Carafano, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, discussed the passage of the intelligence bill.


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The transcript follows.

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Dr. James Jay Carafano: Good Morning, thanks for joining me to discuss this very important issue.

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Reston, Va. -- What a sham: This bill seems like a PR stunt and a chance to creat more bureaucracy more than anything. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesnt the current DCI by law have supervisory/coordinating authority over intelligence operations and the President can make recommendations and meet with them at any time. However going back to Reagan, this coordinating authority was either not recognized or not taken advantage of. It seems like we are just adding a nother ridiculous position where there doesnt need to be one. Only since there are grieving widows and families involved from 9/11, the public thinks its great and any lawmaker that votes against it is banished.

Dr. James Jay Carafano: I think the best arguments for splitting the tasks of providing oversight of the intelligence community (which includes 15 agencies and departments) and the job of running the Central Intelligence Agency are (1) its too much for one individual and (2) it creates unacceptable conflicts of interest. This was certainly the case before the Iraq War when the Congress asked the National Intelligence Community to provide an assessment of the state of Saddam's weapons programs and the CIA, acting as the Director of Central Intelligence, pushed its own assessments over dissenting views.

So, if nothing else, splitting the two jobs is a good idea.

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Lakeland, Fla.: Dana Priest reported today about a CIA operative who is suing the agency claiming they retaliated against him for refusing to falsify pre-war intelligence regarding WMD in Iraq. I'm not asking about his specific case, but rather how common is it in the intelligence community to have reports falsified, slanted, or in some way have objectivity compromised due to political pressure?

washingtonpost.com: Officer Alleges CIA Retaliation (Post, Dec. 9)

Dr. James Jay Carafano: The Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9/11 Commission looked at this issue in some detail and there is another Congressional Committee, which will report out this Spring looking at it as well. The published reports do not support the conclusion that the there is a systematic effort to shape intelligence reports to fit political needs. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the intelligence community failed to question its assumptions, use all the available evidence, share information, and make adequate use of human intelligence.

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Virginia: Do you think this bill will be effective in the war on terror?

Dr. James Jay Carafano: Passing a law won't make us safer or win the war against transnational terrorism.

Following the law might help. It will take months and years to implement and reap the benefits of the reforms proposed in the 9/11 bill, if they are implemented correctly.

It will be up to the Congress to provide proper oversight….something it has failed to do effectively in the past. Will things change? One clue will be the decisions made in how to organize the 109th Congress—what kinds of reforms are made in the committee structure, what jurisdictions are allotted to committees, and what members are assigned to the committees.

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McLean, Va.: what else do you think should have been included in the Bill?

Dr. James Jay Carafano: My biggest problem with the bill is that it failed to address the concern of the 9/11 Commission that grants to state and local governments are in danger of becoming "pork barrel" legislation rather than effective homeland security tools. There was some very strong language on this in the House version of the bill that was left on the cutting room floor by members more concerned about preserving their "piece of the pie" than building an effective national security system to protect us from terrorists.

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Fort Myers, Fla.: Would the creation of a new DNI hinder or assist the military in the use of specialized intel needed in military operations?

Dr. James Jay Carafano: I think the language in the current bill preserves the military's chain of command, in other words the military retains its ability to manage its own resources in support of the troops. Additionally, if the Director of National Intelligence properly fulfills his/her role in coordinating community activities that should provide better support to all members of the community including the military. In short, I think intelligence support for military operations should be as good or better than it was in the past…if the bill is implemented correctly.

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Columbia, S.C.: As I understand it, the bill has provisions for setting national standards for forms of identification such as drivers licenses. Some civil rights groups oppose any steps to a possible national i.d. Do you think a national i.d. would be a good step in fighting terrorism?

Dr. James Jay Carafano: I don't support the idea of a national identity card. I don't think it would be dangerous for the federal government to have a single repository with all information on everyone. On the other hand, standards are important. Identity is the key linchpin to many security systems. As much as possible we need to be able to trust that they are valid and properly used. I think standards represent a bright line that separates the need for credible identity documents and the unnecessary and dangerous idea of national identity cards. We need to make sure that standards become a barrier against national identity cards, rather than a slippery slope towards embracing a national identity system.

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Middletown, Ohio: One of the major recommendations of the 9-11 Commission Report (which, Report, was one of the principal reasons that the intelligence reform bill was moved forward at this time) involved the intended use of biometric data for intelligence purposes.

Q: How was this recommendation incorporated into the intelligence reform bill; and, what are the implications for privacy rights of citizens?

Dr. James Jay Carafano: There are provisions in the bill supporting the development of biometric technologies and the integration of biometrics (unique physical and behavioral characteristics like fingerprints and handwriting) into security systems. Like any technology, they are not a threat to privacy or civil liberties per se, it depends on how they are implemented…the policies, programs, and oversight that are put in place. That's whet we need to foucs on.

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Washington, D.C.: The Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting that the bill contains a ban on creating future exemptions re personal interviews for foreign students and scholars. It is my understanding that the State Department wasn't contemplating loosening this requirement. Why was it added? Was it an attempt to pacify Chairman Sensenbrenner (who, by the way, used completely illogical logic on why he wouldn't vote in favor of the bill).

Dr. James Jay Carafano: There are a number of provisions in the bill that allow for the waiver of interviews.

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Butler, Ohio: What are the prospects that Congress will actually invoke some degree of both budgetary and legislative oversight when the history of such action shows less and less desire on the part of this body to oversee anything concerned with militaristic intent, and has more or less abdicated authority to the Executive branch.

This legislation seems to me just another step in the continuing process of empire-building, with yet additional discretion given to the President.

Dr. James Jay Carafano: I agree with you these are issues of concer. Frankly, there is more new bureaucracy here than I would ahve wanted.

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Valley Forge Military Academy, Pa.: How is splitting up the job a good idea? It creates more problems in the future. Intelligence-gathering becomes competitive when there is competition. The CIA and the FBI in the past were duking it out. Why do we need to heighten the tensions between the agencies with another fighting member (a/k/a the czar)?

Dr. James Jay Carafano: I think the new organization perserves competition, in fact, I think there will be a better chance of dissenting ideas getting to the president.

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Dr. James Jay Carafano: I want to thank everyone for their questions and comments.

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