Re-Forming Intelligence

By Chambliss, Saxby | The National Interest, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Re-Forming Intelligence


Chambliss, Saxby, The National Interest


THE YEAR 2004 was a disruptive and frenetic one for the intelligence community. Intelligence officials were linked to the detainee abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq; it became clear that the Central Intelligence Agency's intelligence estimates on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were off the mark; the 9/11 Commission released its report and issued a range of significant recommendations to reform the intelligence community; the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, of which I am a member, released a highly critical report dealing with pre-war intelligence analysis and collection capabilities; the long-serving Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), George Tenet, stepped down and was replaced by former Congressman Porter Goss, which triggered other senior personnel changes at the CIA; and a series of open, often emotional and sometimes contentious hearings was held in Congress, which resulted in the most sweeping intelligence reform since the National Security Act of 1947.

The centerpiece of this legislation is the creation of a new position, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), to lead our intelligence community. The DNI will not head any single agency--as was the case when the 1947 National Security Act created the Central Intelligence Agency and dual-hatted the DCI as head of the CIA and chief intelligence officer for the U.S. government. The 9/11 Commission correctly pointed out that the old structure gave the DCI too many jobs to be able to do them all effectively. Taking away the onerous responsibilities of running an intelligence agency will allow the new DNI to focus on overseeing the broader intelligence community and managing the national intelligence program.

Another positive aspect of the legislation is the creation of the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), which will conduct strategic operational planning for joint counterintelligence operations. The NCTC will serve as the primary organization for analyzing and integrating all intelligence pertaining to terrorism and counter-terrorism not dealing exclusively with domestic issues. This fusion of terrorism-related intelligence will allow us to see a much more complete picture of the threat and to shape strategies to deal with it.

But the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is only the beginning of the process to reform our intelligence community. The new law does not in itself guarantee success. Whether all of its provisions will be workable remains to be seen. And the inevitable turmoil that results whenever a major overhaul of the bureaucracy is undertaken should make us especially sensitive to the need to protect the morale of our intelligence officers, especially those serving in dangerous undercover positions.

It is crucial that the role of the military in the new intelligence community structure be defined carefully. The new law does not address combining the current eight Defense Department members of the intelligence community under a single commander who would be the military link to the DNI. A single military point of contact would greatly assist the director in fulfilling his or her national collection and analysis responsibilities, and would keep the DNI fully apprised of those military intelligence requirements from our combatant commanders that might be satisfied by intelligence branches outside the Defense Department.

THE IMPETUS for intelligence reform was the surprise attack on the United States on 9/11. It is not accidental, therefore, that the 2004 legislation is animated by a "never again" philosophy. As the chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security in the House of Representatives, I, along with ranking member Jane Harman (D-CA), submitted the first detailed report to Congress in July 2002 on the intelligence deficiencies that existed prior to September 11, 2001. We identified systemic problems in the CIA. …

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