WHITE HOUSE Officials say executive orders call for intelligence reforms
Some are concerned that Bush is trying to forestall more sweeping changes.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
WASHINGTON -- The White House has drafted executive orders designed to address calls for reform of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to administration and congressional officials familiar with the documents.
Among the proposals, a congressional official said Thursday, is one giving the director of central intelligence, who heads the CIA, the title of national intelligence director and granting that position greater authority over the 14 other spy agencies.
The administration has circulated the drafts to high-level officials at agencies that would be affected by the changes, with a request for feedback within days, suggesting that the White House is eager to announce changes soon -- possibly before the opening of the Republican National Convention on Monday.
Creation of a new chief to oversee the intelligence community was among the recommendations of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The drafts now in circulation were crafted in response to the commission's report, issued last month.
But the move to enhance the role of the CIA director may be at odds with the aim of the commission's recommendations, which warned that any new intelligence chief should not also be responsible for leading the CIA.
Concerns in Congress
Some lawmakers are concerned that the Bush administration is seeking to forestall the growing momentum on Capitol Hill for more sweeping change. "This is the way it works," the congressional official said. "They do it by executive order and tell Congress they don't have to act."
It is not clear how much power the White House can grant a new intelligence czar by executive order, without legislation from Congress. The Sept. 11 commission pushed for any new intelligence chief to have expansive power over the estimated $40 billion intelligence budget for all the agencies, and spending matters are largely controlled by Congress.
The White House approach would also be dramatically different from proposals on Capitol Hill, particularly a bill unveiled this week by the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that would essentially dismantle the CIA.
Other orders spelled out in the White House drafts would create a national counterterrorism center -- another strong recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission -- and make changes designed to foster better information-sharing and cooperation among various spy agencies, officials said.
Asked about the executive orders, White House spokesman Allen Abney said late Thursday that the administration had no comment.