White House Orders Intelligence Changes Based on WMD Report
Homeland security adviser Fran Townsend said in a briefing that the Bush administration had accepted 70 of 74 recommendations from the Silberman-Robb commission, whose March 2005 report blasted U.S. intelligence capabilities and methods as inadequate.
Major changes include the establishment of a national counter proliferation center for tracking weapons of mass destruction (WMD); the appointment of an assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice; the creation of a new national security service within the FBI; and the placement of all foreign human intelligence activities under the control of the CIA.
Townsend said newly appointed Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte would be in charge of the WMD counter proliferation center. A White House statement said the center “will manage and coordinate the intelligence community’s activities concerning proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and their delivery systems.”
In addition to the new center, President Bush signed an executive order allowing the United States to freeze the financial assets of companies or individuals involved in weapons trafficking and to bar U.S. citizens from doing business with them.
“This order sends a clear message: if you deal in weapons of mass destruction, you’re not going to use the U.S. financial system to bankroll or facilitate your activities,” Treasury Secretary John Snow said.
The new national security service within the FBI would answer to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales but would “respond to priorities set by the director of national intelligence,” according to a statement released by the White House.
The decision to place all overseas human intelligence gathering under the CIA was a direct rejection of a classified recommendation from the commission that suggested some of those activities could be shared with the Pentagon, the New York Times reported earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Townsend would only say that one classified recommendation from the commission would not be endorsed, but did not give any further information.
Townsend said the three of the commission’s recommendations needed further study by the administration. One of those is to have DNI Negroponte hold individual agencies and departments accountable for past intelligence failures. Townsend said Negroponte needed more time to consider the issue.
She added the agency changes would result in a strengthened intelligence community and a better “quality of product” in terms of intelligence information delivered to the president.
Townsend said some of the changes, such as the establishment of a new assistant attorney general post, will require congressional action.
President Bush appointed Republican Judge Laurence Silberman and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb in early 2004 to head a commission charged with investigating prewar intelligence and recommending changes.
The commission produced a 600-page report that sharply criticized the U.S. intelligence community for intelligence failures before and after the beginning of the Iraq war. The report said prewar intelligence was “dead wrong.”
On Thursday, Robb expressed satisfaction with the administration’s actions.
“By embracing 70 of the 74 recommendations, the commission’s batting average is now almost .950. Even Ted Williams would have envied that,” Robb said in a written statement.