The president's commission on intelligence criticized separate modernization plans sent to President Bush in February by the FBI and the CIA, saying they reflected a "business as usual approach to intelligence gathering" that falls short.
In a letter to Bush dated March 29, the commission said it had reviewed the FBI's proposal to integrate and upgrade its intelligence programs, and the CIA's plan to increase by 50 percent its corps of analysts and operations officers.
"We do not believe that either response is entirely adequate," the commission's letter said. They show "just how important -- and how difficult -- Ambassador [John D.] Negroponte's job will be," the panel said, referring to Bush's nominee to become the nation's first director of national intelligence. The Senate intelligence committee held a hearing yesterday on Negroponte's nomination.
The FBI and CIA plans for improvement were ordered by Bush last November after the Sept. 11 commission detailed shortcomings in the agencies and recommended steps for addressing them. Bush ordered then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and CIA Director Porter J. Goss to submit the proposals, and later asked his intelligence commission to review them.
The commission released its 600-page report last month, finding that U.S. intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in assessing Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before the Iraq war, and warning that they still know too little about the country's potential adversaries. The commission, formally titled the President's Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, was chaired by former U.S. Appeals Court judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.).
The panel's letter to Bush concerning the FBI and CIA proposals was posted on the commission's Web site when its main report was released, but it went unnoticed, officials said.
The FBI plan included creation of a new intelligence directorate to improve handling and coordination of efforts, but the commission said the way it was established "fails to create a truly specialized and integrated national security workforce."
The new directorate, the panel said, functions only as "an overlay on intelligence activities that are managed by other elements of the FBI," noting that it does not control operational resources but only passes intelligence requirements on to FBI field offices for execution. "The directorate's lack of authority prevents the FBI from vertically integrating foreign intelligence collection, analysis and operations," the panel said, noting it believes that intelligence, counterintelligence and counterterrorism "should be jointly managed at the strategic level and fully integrated in planning, targeting and operations."
The CIA's plans for expanding its ranks of key personnel are "too general to create accountability," the panel said. It criticized the hiring of a "relatively small number of [new] analysts in this fiscal year," and said the balance of new personnel would be acquired in the "long term" without specifying what that means.
"Even more troubling," the panel said, is the slow increase in operations officers, saying there is no guarantee that a fiscal year 2011 goal would be reached. In addition, the panel questions the size of planned support teams at headquarters for new operations officers overseas, saying the CIA plan "would still leave the CIA with a thin overseas presence, especially when there is a need to surge in a particular area such as Iraq."
The panel also called on the CIA to "re-think the ways in which it deploys its operations officers . . . that are less reliant on traditional case officers," who in the past have overwhelmingly operated out of U.S. embassies with diplomatic cover. The panel repeated a proposal made in its main report that the agency establish an Innovation Center outside the CIA's clandestine service. Such a center has existed within the old CIA structure, but the panel said it was "short of what is needed."
Overall, the commission recognized that the agency has begun to experiment with new approaches, but chided it for doing them "timidly" and called its experiments "fragile and at risk."
Summing up, the panel told Bush that the "incomplete nature" of both the FBI and CIA responses illustrates that "changes will require strong leadership from the DNI and firm backing from above."