GWEN IFILL: And I'm joined by John Lehman, secretary of navy during the Reagan administration. And Jamie Gorelick, who served as Defense Department general counsel and the deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration.
This has been a big day of developments on the subjects you two have been studying for the past long while.
First of all, Ms. Gorelick your reaction to President Bush's announcement today of his new plans.
JAMIE GORELICK: Well, we certainly welcome his endorsement of the concept of a national intelligence director and a national counterterrorism center, which are two of the many recommendations that we made.
Of course, the devil is in the details and I thought that Jim Lehrer asked the right questions in his earlier interview of Fran Townsend. I think the answers are very material to how we and the American people will react.
GWEN IFILL: Did you hear answers?
JAMIE GORELICK: I did.
GWEN IFILL: Which were?
JAMIE GORELICK: Well, we recommended... first of all we don't like the word czar because we've had an energy czar, we've had a drug czar and they've been essentially powerless.
We want to see someone who has budget authority over those 15 agencies, hiring, firing authority over those 15 agencies, and personnel and IT and information sharing policy coordination and tasking authority throughout. We also would like to see actual joint planning of operations.
And I thought Fran, whom I respect a lot, gave very honest answers, which suggests to me that there is a different concept in the details. In the overall idea of having a position, it's great but I think we have some work to do.
GWEN IFILL: We'll get back to details in a moment. John Lehman what was your overall reaction to the president as announcement today?
JOHN LEHMAN: Well, I think all of us were very pleased. I agree with everything that Jamie said.
This is really unprecedented to have in less than two weeks after our report Congress convene its committees and begin serious work on the legislation, to have the Democratic presidential candidate endorse all of the recommendations, to have the president of the United States begin the process and endorse the two most important organizational issues.
And as Jamie said, the devil is in the details. It's going to take a lot of work in the committees over the next several months to work out these real powers because that is the key as Jamie emphasized.
This person and I too hate the word czar because of the bad precedence that previous czars have set. It has to have more than just coordinating. He has to have hiring and firing. He's got to have not just budget authority but control over the appropriations. He's got to share some of these powers, hiring and firing and appropriations with the respective agency heads. The secretary of defense, the director of FBI, his deputies have to be duel-headed.
There are precedents for this but they're complicated to work out the power. So it's going to take a lot of work. That's why we've decided, all of us as private citizens, to stay together, stay engaged and help Congress and the administration implement these fundamental changes in the way we conduct our government security.
GWEN IFILL: Ms. Gorelick, one of the recommendations the commission made was that this new director of intelligence be located in the White House, be accountable in that way, perhaps cabinet level.
That's something that the president rejected today. Was that a mistake?
JAMIE GORELICK: Gwen, the overarching principle that we wanted to see established is that this person be of senior rank and be a... the principal adviser to the president on these critical issues.
That can be accomplished in many ways. We recommended that the person have that proximity to the president and be in the executive office of the president, but honestly we do not pretend to have the holy writ in our report.
We intended for there to be a healthy debate on these issues and there's room for disagreement there.
The important thing is that the national intelligence director have real power and have a direct reporting relationship to the president which will amplify the powers that John and I have just described.
GWEN IFILL: Adm. Lehman, do you think that this new director, as it's been described-- and you're right, we don't know the details-- do you think that that person will have real power if that person is not cabinet rank?
JOHN LEHMAN: Well, I think the power-- and thanks by the way for the promotion. I'm only a reserve captain.
GWEN IFILL: I don't know where that came from. I apologize.
JOHN LEHMAN: I appreciate it. In any case, the real power will be in his access to the president and the statutory power and the executive power that the president gives him to bind and to loose rather than to just exhort.
The problem with the current DCI is that he has theoretically the responsibility to coordinate all the agencies and to set budgets. But he has no teeth -- no real authority behind those responsibilities.
So I think that it can work if it's not in the executive office of the president, but he has to have direct or she has to have direct line access to the president and exercise his power at the pleasure of the president.
So there are a number of different kinds of constructs that would work. But, you know, as Jamie said, we don't... we're not married to every single detail in the implementation of this.
But we are pretty confident that the system that we have outlined and the changes that are very deep really have to be made.
Certainly ways of implementing might be... there may be ways that we haven't thought of but we've spent 20 months immersed in this. Ten people, Republicans and Democrats, who have been living this.
We've talked to every person who has ever had thoughts about this, every reformer, every past CIA director and the current president, the former president. We've listened to them all. We've thought. We've debated and we've come out unanimous on this structure.
While there may be other permutations, this fundamental change we believe in.
GWEN IFILL: Among those past CIA directors you talked to Stansfield Turner for instance feared that consolidating all of these agencies under a new layer of bureaucracy would be a mistake.
What do you say to that now that the president seems to be on his way in that direction?
JAMIE GORELICK: Well, I admire....
GWEN IFILL: I'll be right back with you in a minute, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
JAMIE GORELICK: I admire and respect Stan Turner enormously. When he was director of central intelligence he had a community management role.
What we are simply saying is to duel hat the director of central intelligence and the national intelligence director is a mistake because you cannot have one among the 15 making these ultimate decisions.
What we want is a national intelligence director who is strong, not weak. We do not want a czar. We want someone who gets the appropriation and gives it out to those agencies.
GWEN IFILL: Are you satisfied that this new person will have control over the budget strings?
JAMIE GORELICK: No.
GWEN IFILL: So you just said you want someone who is strong and who gets the budget appropriations but this person won't.
JAMIE GORELICK: Well, I have not seen anything in writing that describes the structure.
We didn't get an answer to that question yet in the press conference. Actually the most current information is the information on this program from Fran Townsend. And as I understood her language, she talked about coordinating the budget.
She talked about concurring in personnel authority. She talked about coordinating the activities. The president talked about the national counterterrorism center as a knowledge bank.
As John said, we are... we were pretty clear that this doesn't get fixed with a coordinator or a czar.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Lehman, I want to ask you before we go, today obviously we saw the threat levels raised. We've been talking about it a great deal in the program tonight.
As you heard the news about this today, the targeted threat levels being raised around financial institutions in three locations, did you... did it all seem terribly familiar to you?
Did this seem to be... the announcement to be a triumph of what you tried to accomplish over those months or did it cause you greater concern?
JOHN LEHMAN: No, I think it's a continuing series of threats. We've known for a long time that not just al-Qaida but other groups are planning, they're patient, they're smart.
They are fully technologically enabled. And they understand our vulnerabilities and they understand the nature of a free society and how to attack it. So this is not news and it's why we have felt so urgently that it just tinkering around the edges is totally insufficient.
We have to rebuild our overall intelligence establishment, and I just wanted to take up one point when you asked about the consolidation.
We're not talking about a consolidation here. We want to strengthen CIA. We want to strengthen the FBI intelligence capability, the various agencies in defense.
What we need to do is to ensure that we continue to have multi-source analysis, that there is competition of analysis but that the stove pipes that prevent sharing and the layers of bureaucratic obstacles to putting the proper priorities are removed and it takes a very strong authority to do that.
GWEN IFILL: John Lehman and Jamie Gorelick, thank you both very much.
JAMIE GORELICK: You're welcome.