Bush considers moving cia ops to pentagon
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Bush Orders Reviews of CIA Paramilitary Operations (Update1)
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush ordered four government agencies to study shifting CIA paramilitary operations to the Defense Department, a recommendation of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.
The review, announced by the White House today, follows delays in congressional passage of legislation that would enact some of the other 40 recommendations by the panel that examined intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people.
The bill, which would create a national director of intelligence to oversee U.S. spy operations, stalled in negotiations between the House and Senate when Republican Representative Duncan Hunter of California objected to provisions that he said would strip military commanders of control over battlefield intelligence.
By calling for a review of paramilitary forces Bush ``may just be punting to get the interagency views into the open before the next round of legislation and is willing to decide once he hears different views,'' said Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Before the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the Central Intelligence Agency didn't ``invest in developing a robust capability'' to conduct paramilitary operations with U.S. personnel, the Sept. 11 commission said in its report. The agency relied on proxies organized by the CIA without necessary training, the July 22 report said.
``The results were unsatisfactory,'' the panel wrote. ``Lead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department.''
Having two groups execute paramilitary operations was redundant, the report said.
Progress on other recommendations by the commission stalled in Congress as the House and Senate negotiated their differences Nov. 20.
Some senators, including Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Pat Roberts of Kansas, said the Pentagon encouraged opposition to the intelligence overhaul legislation because it would shift authority over intelligence funding away from the military.
``It's well-known that the secretary of defense wasn't enthusiastic about this loss of budget authority,'' McCain, who supports the legislation, said Nov. 21 on NBC's ``Meet the Press'' program.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today said he wasn't trying to block the bill.
``I favor reform in the intelligence community,'' Rumsfeld said at a regular Pentagon briefing. ``I support the president's position.''
He said he was out of the country when the House and Senate were trying to merge their versions of the intelligence overhaul bill and that ``the president's position is evolving as the negotiation evolves.''
In Crawford, Texas, where Bush was spending the Thanksgiving holiday, spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the administration ``has been very clear'' in its backing for the legislation. ``The president wants to get this done,'' she said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said Nov. 21 that he expected lawmakers will try to revive the bill when Congress returns on Dec. 6.
Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow for foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the Defense Department has lobbied against consolidating intelligence collection. Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared with Rumsfeld before the Senate Armed Services Committee in August and told lawmakers they should preserve ``competition'' among intelligence services.
``Rumsfeld and Myers are campaigning against the national intelligence director post and it looks like they are being effective,'' O'Hanlon said.
Rumsfeld also opposed combining paramilitary operations. He and then-acting CIA Director John McLaughlin told the Senate panel at its August hearings that such a transfer of power wouldn't be in the best interests of U.S. intelligence.
``We have a perfect marriage now of CIA and military capabilities,'' McLaughlin said. ``CIA brings to the mix agility and speed. Military brings lethality.''
The 90-day study will be done by the CIA and the Defense, Justice and State departments, the White House statement said.
``There are good reasons to keep both CIA and military operational elements,'' Cordesman said,
Military forces are subject to the laws of war and trained for combat, he said. ``There also are natural advantages in having some degree of competition, different approaches, and different degrees of integration into intelligence versus the military,'' he said. ``This solution may be neat in organizational terms, but is a poor one in functional terms.''
Last Updated: November 23, 2004 20:00 EST