In the months ahead, the Central Intelligence Agency will almost
certainly undergo its most extensive shake-up in nearly 30 years.
Whether the intelligence reform bill now stuck in Congress
becomes law might almost be beside the point. A new director,
personality conflicts, and orders from the White House have already
combined to produce turmoil at Langley unmatched since the Carter
era, when Stansfield Turner cut spies overseas in favor of advanced
Considering the dangers the US faces, now might seem a bad time
for CIA reinvention. Better to have top officials focusing on the
internal politics of Al Qaeda than those of their own bureaucracy,
But new Director Porter Goss and his aides believe the opposite -
that the era requires nothing less than big change - and they may
have found willing ears in a Bush administration that appears to
have long chafed at some aspects of the way the CIA does business.
"They really do believe they have to start over again," says Robert
Baer, a former CIA Middle East operative.
Intelligence restructuring legislation would still have a
profound effect on the CIA, the Pentagon, and other US spy agencies,
of course. Among other things, it would establish a new National
Intelligence Director with budget power over all aspects of
intelligence, including those overseen by the Department of Defense.
It would also establish a joint counterterrorism center whose head
would be a presidential appointee, subject to Senate confirmation.
Overall, "it puts into law not only the recommendations from [the
9/11] commission but other sources as well, and it creates a
counterterror framework," said Lee Hamilton, former vice chairman of
the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,
at a Monitor breakfast on Tuesday.
But at the time of writing, the bill remained stuck in the House
due to the concerns of several powerful Representatives about its
possible effect on the military chain of command, and its lack of
certain immigration controls.
Some lawmakers have questioned whether President Bush really
supports the bill. Republican committee chairmen are the ones
halting action, after all. And top military officials have openly
expressed their hope that nothing be done to effect their control
over tactical aspects of intelligence.
Still, White House aides said they would push the bill this week.
Among other things, Mr. Bush will send a letter to congressional
leaders making his views on the legislation clear.
In the meantime, the administration has plunged ahead with
intelligence reform of its own. In recent days, Bush has signed a
series of executive orders that taken together might change the
CIA's character, if not its size. …