MARGARET WARNER: Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued his bold proposal to split up the CIA on CBS' Face the Nation yesterday.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: We just sort of stepped back from the trees, and instead of worrying about boxes and agencies and turf, just said, what would you put together now that really represents an answer to what the 9/11 Commission has recommended and what our Senate report has indicated?
MARGARET WARNER: Roberts' proposal, the 9/11 National Security Protection Act, would give a new national intelligence director, or NID, control over all aspects of intelligence through four new function-based divisions headed by four assistant directors.
Under his plan, the CIA's three major divisions-- for clandestine operations, for intelligence analysis, and for science and technology -- would be split up, and each placed under a different assistant intelligence director, depending on its function. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, also on the Intelligence Committee, immediately objected to Roberts' failure to consult with the Democrats.
SEN. CARL LEVIN: The eight people who have signed onto this proposal-- and I don't know the details in here -- are the Republican members of the Intelligence Committee. I think it would be better to start on a bipartisan basis with a bipartisan bill.
MARGARET WARNER: John Kerry's foreign policy adviser called the proposal "welcome" and "similar to the reforms Kerry has offered," but he said it was up to President Bush to "show leadership in this effort."
President Bush was noncommittal, however, telling reporters at his Texas ranch today that Roberts' idea would be considered along with others in the current debate over how to reshape U.S. Intelligence. Weighing in forcefully was former CIA Director George Tenet. In a written statement today, he said:
"This proposal reflects a dangerous misunderstanding of the business of intelligence… Sen. Roberts' proposal is yet another episode in the mad rush to rearrange wiring diagrams in an attempt to be seen as doing something…. It is time for someone to slam the brakes on before the politics of the moment drives the security of the American people off a cliff."
MARGARET WARNER: For more on his proposal, we're joined by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California. She's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Welcome to you both. Sen. Roberts, most of the headlines this morning in most of the papers called your proposal a plan to split up the CIA. Is that the guts of your concept here?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: In a word, no. What we plan to do is we said to our staff, step back from the trees, step back from the boxes, step back from the agencies, step back from the turf battles, really try to achieve real reform with a national intelligence director if, in fact, that's the direction that you want to go.
Now, no agency is so sacrosanct that it comes before the national security of the United States. Every member of the CIA that is currently working for the CIA will continue to work in their function, whether they work at Langley behind a desk or whether they're out in the field laying their lives on the line in regards to our country and they've done a darned good job in many instances.
In an Armed Services hearing we just had as of last week, I told that to the acting director, John McLaughlin. I said the snapshot of today is better than it was yesterday. But what we have done is we have put them under a different line authority.
We have realigned them so all that they've been asking for down through the years in terms of authority, more budgets, more priorities and to actually execute that authority would be accomplished under this bill. So I'm not trying to demolish the CIA by any means. I'm trying to improve their function by the people who work for the CIA today.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. I'm going to see if I can get you to explain it even further. As I read your proposal, it seemed to me what you were saying is, it doesn't matter where a particular agency or division got its start, whether it's CIA or at DOD, if it does a certain function, like collection, all those collection agencies should be in the same division and the same with analysis and so on.
Give us an example of how it would work in the collection agencies. Which agencies -- and I keep using that word -- would be essentially robbed or mined to create this assistant intelligence director for collection?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: I don't think anybody is being robbed. I think they're being enhanced. I have a chart here which I'm not going to show because it's too small and you just don't want to do that. But we have the National Security Agency, the NSA, and in that regard we already have the general in charge of that saying that he would not mind at all serving under a national intelligence director.
We have the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and that general has said the same thing. We have the National Clandestine Service or the director of operations under collection. We have the Defense Intelligence Agency, and then we have the FBI counterintelligence and counterterrorism divisions. The FBI would still serve under the Department of Justice, but what I told the staff was, look, step back from the trees and take a look at the threat that we face today in our country, the real national security threat, and try to come up with something that if you have a national intelligence director that would give that director the line authority, the hire/fire authority, the transfer personnel authority and the budget authority to get the job done.
Now what are the four components of intelligence? You have first collection and then analysis and then obviously you report that to the policy-maker. Then you have acquisition and research in regards to technology. Then you have the final step which is the tactical intelligence that you provide the war fighter. I'm an old marine. I'm on the Armed Services Committee and I love John Warner, who is our chairman. And he does a great job.
We're not going to do anything to the tactical intelligence that is provided to the Secretary of Defense with the exception we give him a four-star general that at least will be liaison between the Secretary of Defense and the National Intelligence Director.
So basically what we're doing is allowing all these people that you're talking about, about being robbed, we are enhancing their capability in terms of line-item authority so they can do the job better.
MARGARET WARNER: Congresswoman Eshoo, I gather you couldn't hear the very beginning of his answer. Let me just paraphrase. What is wrong or do you think there is anything wrong or is there something to be said for the concept of taking, let's say, all the various divisions that are involved in the collection of intelligence -- in CIA and DOD and FBI -- and putting them under one assistant national director for intelligence?
REP. ANNA ESHOO: Well, first let me say that it is... it's welcome for Sen. Roberts to have come out with a proposal. I think that we need as many ideas as possible.
Having said that, I think that this is a somewhat radical departure from the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which is the inspiration from which the Congress is working. Why? Because it really breaks up the entire central intelligence agency.
Secondly, as I understand it, this has not been put before the Democrats on the committee, and I think that what we do in the reform of the intelligence community, both in the Senate and the House, should reflect the model of the 9/11 Commission. And that is that they were bipartisan.
And so I think that those are some early considerations, certainly Sen. Roberts' ideas, he rolled out yesterday, most have not read the details of the proposal.
I think that there is real support in the Congress for a national intelligence director, and there is a bipartisan effort going on in the Senate between Senators Collins and Lieberman. We have legislation in the House as well. But there isn't anyone that has come up with the proposal to break up the Central Intelligence Agency.
MARGARET WARNER: And why do you think that's a bad idea, just on its face?
REP. ANNA ESHOO: Well, I am very hesitant about it. I say this because I don't think that there is anything that points to that there should be a total break-up of the agency.
What the failures that were documented by the investigation of the 9/11 Commission and then the recommendations they made relative to those failures were, that there was not a sharing of information - a jointness that moves across the agencies. It didn't say that the CIA was totally broken down.
Now, my questions are the following: Where is the White House on this? The president said today in his own inimitable way, quote, there is a lot of ideas moving around. And so there is, I think, some confusion also. And I don't think at the end of this process that we want to end up with chaos.
We're living under orange alerts now, and we need to, yes, examine all ideas and have constructive criticism which I'm attempting to offer, but I'm very hesitant about what Sen. Roberts has proposed. I have respect for him, but I don't know whether busting up the CIA is a real smart way to go.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Roberts, respond to that basic idea -- we've just heard it from George Tenet and others -- that it's just such a radical thing to do when we're in the midst of a war against terrorism and against al-Qaida that the CIA is to some great degree quarterbacking.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Every time that I have heard George Tenet -- and I hope he's still a friend of mine. He made very strong statements, and so did Anna, who is also a friend of mine and a very valued member of the House Intelligence Committee, and we served together on the House Senate investigation in regards to what happened with 9/11.
We're not breaking up the CIA We're not really breaking up that old gang of mine. Every time they've come to us before the Senate Intelligence Committee they've asked for more authority. They've had that authority since 1947.
We have had, since 1949, 38 attempts to reform the intelligence community. This is number 39. We can't afford to wait any longer with all of the "oh, my God" hearings that we have in the Senate and the House-- "oh, my God, how did this happen?"-- and after 9/11.
This is truly real reform. What we take are the functions of the CIA personnel who still work in those functions, they simply are realigned to a different director who will give them more authority, more budget attention, the same kind of authority that George Tenet wanted every time he came before the committee and had since 1947-- not him but every central intelligence agency director. So we are not breaking up the CIA I can also respond to the partisanship in regards to lack of sharing this, in regards to a consensus with Democrats. But in the interest of time I'll let you ask me that again.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, I was going to ask you briefly on that because I want to get back to the congresswoman. Briefly, why didn't you bring in any of the Democrats on your committee, only the Republicans?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Well, number one, I regret that that happened because of the time frame. We only have one more week before the Republican Convention. Then there's going to be eight or nine bills introduced at least on the Senate and the House side. We had eight members on the Republican side who said we ought to go with this bill, plant the intelligence flag at least as a marker. It is not written in stone. If anybody has concerns, they can certainly add or detract.
I talked to Sen. Rockefeller about it. We've been in close contact. He's been in contact with his members in regards to the 9/11 Commission. We're trying to work that out. Basically he had the bill on Friday. We had a disagreement. We had some meaningful dialogue. I thought we ought to introduce the bill as a marker. He did not. I think we can get back and have a consensus project.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Congresswoman Eshoo, do you think this bill could serve at least as a "marker," a starting point?
REP. ANNA ESHOO: Well, I think that it is... I prefer, Margaret, the bills that are out there that do the following: That we have a national intelligence director. Why?
Because there needs to be one person with very clear lines of authority and responsibility, and the budget and personnel authority must ride with that position. Otherwise, the person in that position would be essentially a toothless tiger. So I think that that's a very important starting point.
I also think that the White House should release the report that Brent Scowcroft put together I believe in 2002 for a full examination of the ideas that he had. He's respected on both sides of the aisle, and we need to see and examine that because this is once in a half a century opportunity for us. I do think....
MARGARET WARNER: Congresswoman....
REP. ANNA ESHOO: I do think - I still think that my friend Sen. Roberts' proposal is a real departure from those bills that are... that have been introduced so far.
I also think that when Porter Goss comes before Sen. Roberts' committee for the nomination hearings that it will make for a very, very interesting conversation and debate between his bill and the bill that Porter Goss introduced on June 16 which gave everything to the CIA director including all budget authority.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, and we are going...
REP. ANNA ESHOO: I'll look forward to that discussion.
MARGARET WARNER: We all will and thank you both very much.