The White House has decided to establish an office to manage and coordinate all U.S. human intelligence collection overseas, whether carried out by the CIA, the Pentagon or the FBI, one of dozens of recommendations made in March by a presidential commission on intelligence, according to current and former senior intelligence officials.
The administration is scheduled today to announce the new office and other intelligence changes arising from recommendations by the commission, which was headed by Judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). The office will be modeled after a commission recommendation to establish a Human Intelligence Directorate within the CIA that would be in a position superior to the Directorate of Operations, which now runs the agency's clandestine operations abroad, officials said.
As anti-terrorism efforts have required more spying abroad, there have been clashes among CIA, FBI and Pentagon clandestine operatives, a situation that the president's commission said in its report "heighten[s] the risk that intelligence operations will be insufficiently coordinated."
The intelligence restructuring law, which passed Congress in December, established the director of national intelligence (DNI) to supervise all intelligence activities but specified that the director of central intelligence would "provide overall direction for and coordination of collection of national intelligence outside the United States by elements of the intelligence community."
The new human intelligence office is an extension of that provision and is scheduled to be announced today along with other changes at the White House by Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush's homeland security adviser, who oversaw the administration's review of the commission's findings.
CIA Director Porter J. Goss and his agency, whose role diminished within the intelligence community with the arrival of John D. Negroponte as DNI, would solidify control of overseas spying under the new system. In addition, the change would "elevate human intelligence above analysis and science and technology within the agency," a former senior CIA official said yesterday.
The office will be headed by a new assistant director of central intelligence, said officials who described the steps to be taken on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not been made. In addition to coordinating overseas spying operations, the new office will develop common spy tradecraft training for all agencies and supervise development of new human intelligence collection techniques for the entire intelligence community, they said.
Although the new lines of authority are not yet clear, it appeared that the human intelligence office would fall under a former CIA clandestine officer, the new deputy DNI for collection, Mary Margaret Graham, who was an associate CIA deputy director for counterintelligence operations.
Among other commission recommendations expected to be put into effect is the establishment of a national nonproliferation center that would act as a relatively small coordinating body for analysis and collection but would not become involved in strategic planning for such activities.
The already-established National Counterterrorism Center, which oversees the analysis and strategic planning for counterterrorism activities at home and abroad, has grown in size and faced problems in integrating CIA, FBI, Pentagon, Homeland Security and other agencies' personnel and activities.
The commission's recommendation that "mission managers" be created within the DNI is also expected to be implemented. They would become the intelligence community's coordinators for high-priority targets, such as North Korea and Iran, to make certain the various collection and analytic agencies are coordinating their work.
"They should be able to pursue collection and analysis across the community," said one former senior intelligence official.