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Old 07-31-2008, 09:01 AM
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One More Attempt
To Sort Out the Spying
July 31, 2008 7:05 a.m.

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In the latest bid to tackle unfinished business of the post-9/11 era in the waning months of the Bush administration, the White House today plans to make public a sweeping centralization of authority in the U.S. intelligence community.

In late 2004, under tremendous pressure from the federal 9/11 commission and families of the Sept. 11, 2001 victims, the Bush administration and Congress pushed through an intelligence overhaul that included creation of a new post, the director of national intelligence, who was charged with cutting through the agency rivalry, dysfunctional information sharing and budgetary tangles blamed in part for the attacks. But in the infant years of the office of the DNI, outside critics saw little progress on those fronts, especially when Donald Rumsfeld still ran the Pentagon with its lion's share of intelligence spending. In theory, an executive order signed by President Bush yesterday addresses the problem head on, though these issues have troubled U.S. intelligence gathering for generations and defied past attempts to fix them.

According to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal, the order bolsters the DNI powers by giving him "a greater role in hiring and firing agency heads, authority to remove barriers to intelligence sharing, and the responsibility for overseeing the acquisition of expensive programs such as new spy satellites," the paper says. "The revised order also gives the director the responsibility for developing policy governing relationships with foreign intelligence services, which had been handled primarily by the CIA," which would now instead be implementing the priorities of the DNI. The Washington Post, citing a White House PowerPoint presentation prepared for the intelligence community's Congressional overseers, says the order -- an update of one issued during the Reagan administration -- also establishes new standards for training and tradecraft. The order was the subject of a year of negotiation among administration officials, the Post adds. And the Journal reports that some people on Capitol Hill were upset that the administration didn't consult more with Congress. The biggest test of the new order will probably be how well the 16 different U.S. intelligence agencies consult with each other in the coming years.
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