President Bush announced plans last night for a new center to integrate intelligence on terrorism collected at home and abroad, saying it was necessary to create the most comprehensive picture of possible threats to the United States and its citizens
A senior administration official said the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center will assess intelligence gathered by the CIA, Justice Department, Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security and provide "seamless" analysis of the information to the president and other senior policymakers.
The new center is expected to take over compilation of the integrated threat matrix -- a day-by-day accounting of potential threats -- given to President Bush and other senior national security officials each morning.
The new center is aimed at helping to eliminate remaining barriers between the nation's intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and FBI, over sharing and analyzing intelligence. The center will be placed directly under the supervision of Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, reinforcing Tenet's role as Bush's senior intelligence adviser, officials said.
The idea for the new center came in part from Congress, which last year criticized the CIA and FBI for withholding information on potential terrorist threats from each other, the senior official told reporters. The two agencies have been "working very well together" since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the official said, but the sharing is "informal" and achieved by "brute force."
The center seems to parallel the intelligence analysis operation assigned to the new Homeland Security Department, which officially opened last Friday. But senior administration officials last night went out of their way to say this was not the case.
"Homeland Security will be a full partner and an important customer" of the center, one official said. The department will have its own intelligence analysis section, but its primary job will be "to address vulnerabilities" of the United States, the official said.
The threat integration center will analyze intelligence and ensure the information is shared throughout the federal government as well as with state and local authorities. It also will have the authority to set requirements for all intelligence agencies and assign collection operations to the CIA, the Pentagon, the FBI and, through Homeland Security, to state and local law enforcement authorities.
"This will be the first time in our history that all of these elements come together," the official said.
Bush has told aides he wants the center to be created "right away," the official said. An interagency task force is being formed to work out the details.
One idea is to take the CIA's counterterrorism center, now manned by more than 1,000 people and the oldest of the nation's integrated intelligence centers, and move it to a new facility outside CIA headquarters in Langley, according to one senior official. The new threat center, with senior terrorism analysts from the CIA, FBI, Pentagon, Homeland Security Department and other agencies, would be on one floor of the new facility. The CIA counterterrorism center would be located on other floors.
In another move to strengthen analysis of potential threats, the officials said, the FBI has given the collection and dissemination of intelligence the same priority that it has in the past applied to the collection of evidence for prosecution of crimes. A new FBI executive assistant director will be named and given authority to direct intelligence units to be established at all FBI field offices.