President Bush announced today that he is creating a new intelligence-oriented security service within the FBI and a national center to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction, as he moved to implement nearly all the recommendations of a special commission on U.S. intelligence.
In announcing the actions, the White House said Bush endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations made by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, a panel he created in February 2004. Known as the WMD Commission, the panel chaired by federal judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) issued a report in March that sharply criticized U.S. intelligence failures and called for major reforms.
In a fact sheet issued today, the White House said three of the commission's recommendations required further study and that a fourth, which is classified, would not be implemented.
The White House said Bush was directing Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pull together the Justice Department's security elements and create "a National Security Service within the FBI that will specialize in intelligence and other national security matters." The new agency will "respond to priorities set by the Director of National Intelligence," a post created as part of an intelligence community overhaul following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bush also endorsed the creation of a "National Counter Proliferation Center" that the White House said will "manage and coordinate the intelligence community's activities concerning proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and their delivery systems."
At the same time, Bush signed an executive order aimed at cutting off financing and other support for networks that illegally trade in weapons of mass destruction and nuclear materials. The order allows the government to freeze the assets in the United States of persons, companies or organizations involved in the spread of banned weapons and forbids Americans from doing business with them.
Immediately subject to the order are eight organizations in Iran, North Korea and Syria. Among them is the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, an agency originally established by the U.S.-backed shah of Iran in 1973 to manage his ambitious nuclear power program.
In addition, the White House said, Bush will work with Congress to implement recommendations that require legislation. These include reform of congressional bodies that conduct intelligence oversight, the creation of a new assistant attorney general position for intelligence and national security matters and the passage of legislation to improve the government's ability to investigate foreign agents.
In a news briefing on the recommendations, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said formation of the new National Security Service within his agency "is the next step in the evolution of our ability to protect the American public." He said the service "pulls together the Counterintelligence Division, the Counterterrorism Division and the Directorate of Intelligence." The new entity will develop intelligence and act on it in consultation with the director of national intelligence.
Gonzales said the WMD Commission's recommendations were intended to "build upon the tremendous progress that has already occurred" within the Justice Department and FBI "to counter the terrorism threat." Among the evidence of this progress, he said, "is that we haven't had another attack since September 11th. . . ."
Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, told a White House news briefing that the new executive order "is intended to take what we've found to be a very effective tool against terrorism targets . . . and expand that to counterproliferation targets."