Bush to broaden CIA powers

Bush is to order the creation of a national counter-terrorism centre and temporarily expand the CIA director’s powers to oversee intelligence, his spokesman said.

“The president plans to sign some executive orders and issue some presidential directives that will help us take additional steps to improve our ability to find, track, and stop terrorists,” said Mr Scott McClellan.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction at the core of Bush’s public case for war with Iraq have led to a spirited debate over intelligence reforms.

Bush has come under heavy pressure to endorse several proposals, including the creation of a national intelligence director to replace the CIA chief at the helm of the 15 US intelligence agencies.

Mr McClellan said the White House would keep working with the US Congress on the legislation necessary to create such a position, adding that the post would have authority over budget and personnel issues.

In the meantime, Bush’s orders “include giving the director of the central intelligence additional authority, interim authority I should say, to perform many of the functions that would eventually by assumed by the national intelligence director,” said McClellan.

“The president will also be signing an executive order to establish the national counterterrorism centre, and he’ll also be signing an order that will set some clear guidelines for the sharing of intelligence by establishing some common standards and clear accountability measures,” he said.

The official investigation into the September 11 attacks found that US intelligence agencies failed to share evidence that might have helped to unravel the plot by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

Bush has nominated Republican Representative Porter Goss to replace George Tenet, who resigned in early July, leaving the agency to acting director John McLaughlin while Goss awaits Senate confirmation hearings.

Congressional leaders said legislation carrying out a sweeping overhaul of US intelligence would be ready for a vote by October 1.

US defence, military and intelligence chiefs have urged lawmakers to tread cautiously, warning that a hasty overhaul could do more harm than good, while relatives of those killed in the September 11 attacks have urged the US Congress to move without delay.

The president’s rival in the November 2 elections, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, has embraced all of the recommendations by the commission that investigated the September 11 attacks.

Bush, who fought the creation of the September 11 panel, has baulked at the commission’s call for placing the new intelligence director in his Cabinet or in the executive office of the US presidency.

“It ought to be a stand-alone group to better coordinate, particularly between foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence matters,” he said on August 2.

Bush called for legislation under which the president would nominate the director, who would be confirmed by the Senate but could be fired by the president.
The new post would assume some key CIA functions, becoming the president’s primary intelligence adviser and overseeing and coordinate the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community, the president said.

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