Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Major Work Left to Fix US Intelligence ; New Study Criticizes US Intelligence-Gathering in Iraq, Korea, and Iran. It Suggests 74 Changes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Major Work Left to Fix US Intelligence ; New Study Criticizes US Intelligence-Gathering in Iraq, Korea, and Iran. It Suggests 74 Changes

Article excerpt

Four-and-a-half years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the US intelligence community remains in many ways a bureaucracy in chaos.

The CIA, the FBI, and other agencies involved in espionage and intelligence analysis are still adjusting to such major changes as the the new National Counterterrorism Center. As yet, there's no new director of national intelligence in place - nominee John Negroponte's Senate confirmation hearings don't begin until later this month.

And now forceful criticism from a new source is stirring the intelligence pot again. A presidential commission on Thursday outlined 74 more changes for a community it says knows "disturbingly little" about the threats facing the country.

Has the push for reform become counterproductive? Not yet, say some experts. But they caution that improving intelligence may require more patience on Washington's part. "Thinking we're going to do a lot better soon is just unrealistic," says Gregory Treverton, an intelligence expert at RAND Corp.

The latest panel to offer its say on US intelligence is officially known as the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Headed by Senior US Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman and former Sen. Charles Robb (D) of Virginia,

it was appointed by President Bush in February 2004.

The panel's report is harsh in its judgment of the performance of US intelligence prior to the war in Iraq, saying it was "dead wrong" in most of its judgments regarding Saddam Hussein's purported weapons of mass destruction.

Implicitly, the report absolves the administration of politicizing intelligence prior to the war, saying that CIA briefers told the White House "what they believed."

The panel also studied current US intelligence about the WMD programs of North Korea and Iran, among others. While the unclassified version of its report says little about this subject, a cover letter addressed to Mr. Bush states that "the bad news is that we still know disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries."

The good news is that there have been some recent WMD intelligence successes, notes the report, such as the exposure of the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's clandestine nuclear supply network.

"We must work to replicate these successes in other areas," said Bush at a Thursday press appearance.

In its 600-page report the Silberman-Robb Commission calls for 74 changes, most of which can be implemented without legislation. The most important, according to the report, include:

* Give the Director of National Intelligence powers - and backing - to match his responsibilities. The report points out that the final version of the legislation that established this position, passed and signed into law this past December, watered down the DNI's abilities. …

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