Thursday, July 22, 2004

The 9/11 Commision report was released today. The Commission's ultimate conclusion was that there was enough blame to go around in terms of failing to predict and prevent the terrorist attacks. Congress' role in this failure did receive special attention in the report. Their systematic gutting of our intelligence capabilities goes back to the 1970's and the Church Committee hearings on CIA misdeeds that essentially threw the baby out with the bathwater.

The report also recommended creating a new high level intelligence office overseeing the intelligence function of all of the agencies in the intelligence community. This sounds like a good idea, but it would not be the panacea that its supporters claim. For one thing, there is already a position in the intelligence community for someone who oversees the entire community and reports to the President. That person is the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). Most people refer to this person as the CIA Director, but the DCI is more than director of one agency, he is the President's primary advisor on intelligence matters.

Another issue that complicates the Commission's recommendation is bureaucracy. This new intelligence "czar' would be the supervisor of people in various agencies that are in different cabinet departments. The FBI Director would answer to the Attorney General, but his intelligence personnel would answer to this new intelligence official. The same would go for the agencies that were a part of DoD, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security. Would their intel personnel answer to an outside official (a bad plan from the get-go), or would they answer to both the agency head and the intel czar (an even worse plan).

The answer is to let the DCI do his job. If he advises the President properly and coordinates between the agencies, the information can flow in the proper directions. In the end, they ALL work for the President. Their job is to make his job easier, not to bicker amongst themselves.

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