Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence want to strip from the CIA its primary role as manager of overseas collection of human intelligence, suggesting that Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte take over that responsibility.
The CIA's Directorate of Operations, the agency's clandestine arm, which now coordinates spying overseas by all U.S. intelligence agencies, in the past "did not effectively exercise the authorities of the national HUMINT [human intelligence] manager often focusing instead on its own structure and operations," the committee majority said in its report on the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill released late Thursday.
Citing past failures in averting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and in overstating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the Republican majority said U.S. spying operations "have lacked strong leadership and effective mechanism to resolve conflicts."
The Republicans, led by Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.), the panel chairman, urged Negroponte "to directly manage and oversee the conduct of HUMINT operations across the intelligence community," saying the need is "imperative" because the Pentagon and the FBI are placing "greater emphasis" on spying.
Democrats on the committee opposed the suggestion, calling it in their section of the report a "misguided solution" and noting that the CIA has recently reached agreements with the FBI and Pentagon to "avoid confusion and ensure smooth coordination" of spying operations at home and abroad. They also noted that the DNI -- a position created by Congress last year to oversee and coordinate the government's intelligence community -- "was not established as a new bureaucracy to assume the responsibility for day-to-day intelligence operations."
The Republican call for change comes as a plan by CIA Director Porter J. Goss to create a CIA coordinator for all human intelligence carried out abroad by U.S. agencies, including the Pentagon and FBI, sits in Negroponte's office awaiting his approval. Though the proposal originated with the President's Commission on Intelligence, there is no timetable for Negroponte to make that decision, an official in Negroponte's office said yesterday.
The majority report accompanies the Senate version of the intelligence authorization bill, which carries about $44 billion for the 15 agencies and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It will now go to the Senate Armed Services Committee and later to the Senate floor for a vote. The report explains various sections of the bill and includes a broad committee review of the intelligence community, its weaknesses and strengths. The House has already passed its version of the measure. The Democrats' remarks were carried as "additional views" in the report.
The report includes two additional indications of the Pentagon's sharply increasing activities in the intelligence field at home and abroad.
While the CIA is waiting for DNI approval of its plan for coordinating intelligence activities overseas, the Pentagon has created a Defense Humint Management Office to coordinate increased spying activities by the Defense Intelligence Agency's human intelligence section, as well as clandestine operations by the separate services, area commanders and counterintelligence arms. One role for this office, which will be run under the supervision of Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone, will be to "deconflict" intelligence operations, meaning to ensure that activities by various Pentagon groups do not overlap or interfere with each other, a Pentagon official said.
The committee report recommends that the new office have authority to direct and control all Defense Department collection of information from human sources -- as opposed to technical sources such as electronic intercepts -- in the United States and overseas.
Another proposal reflected increased Pentagon interest in intelligence operations in the United States involving American citizens. The proposal included in the bill would give a "limited" exemption to defense intelligence personnel, allowing them to recruit sources and collect personal information on U.S. citizens clandestinely, without disclosing they worked for the government, when "significant" foreign intelligence is being sought. They would have to coordinate such collection with the FBI.
A similar exemption was sought last year and dropped from the bill because of opposition in the Senate Armed Services Committee, said a senior congressional staff member. This year the committee said, "Current counterterrorism and other foreign intelligence operations highlight the need for greater latitude to assess potential intelligence sources, both overseas and within the United States." The panel noted the limited exemption is similar to that enjoyed by the CIA "when assessing and recruiting sources."
The committee said it "will closely monitor the DoD's [Defense Department's] use of the authorities provided."
In other areas, the panel approved establishment of a DNI inspector general with authority to investigate matters in any of the 15 agencies that make up the intelligence community. That person would be nominated by the president and subject to Senate confirmation.
Another proposal would require that the deputy director of central intelligence be a civilian and not an active-duty military officer, as is now the case. The committee said Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland III could continue to serve until President Bush nominates a successor or he retires.