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Analysis: Authority of New US Intelligence Director Will Likely Be Tested by Agencies He Heads


President Bush's choice to be director of national intelligence comes two months after the legislation was passed creating the new post. The DNI, as he is already being called, is expected to coordinate the activities of U.S. intelligence. But, the actual extent of the new director's authority will probably be determined only after some bureaucratic battles among the various intelligence agencies.

As the nation's first director of national intelligence, John Negroponte will be sailing into uncharted bureaucratic waters.

In announcing the appointment, President Bush made it clear what he wants not only from his director of National Intelligence, but also from the 15 sometimes competing agencies that deal one way or another in intelligence. "He will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence, to ensure the sharing of information among agencies, and to establish common standards for the intelligence community's personnel. It will be John's responsibility to determine the budgets for all national intelligence agencies and offices and to direct how these funds are spent," he said.

The position of director of national intelligence was created in law two-months ago to implement one of the recommendations of the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. It is considered the biggest overhaul of the U.S. intelligence apparatus in nearly 60 years.

As Mr. Bush made plain, the director of national intelligence will supplant the head of the C.I.A. as the nation's top intelligence officer. "Investing these authorities in a single official who reports directly to me will make our intelligence efforts better coordinated, more efficient, and more effective," he said. "The director of the C.I.A. will report to John."

But how he will accomplish those goals has yet to be determined. On paper, the director of national intelligence looks to have great power, but the real authority that Mr. Negroponte will be able to wield is hazy.

Some agencies, particularly those of the Defense Department, are reported to be reluctant to give up any power to the new national intelligence chief. Analysts say the working relationship between the new director and the agencies will have to be thrashed out in bureaucratic turf wars.

John McGaffin, a former associate deputy director of operations at the C.I.A., says it is important for the director of national intelligence to have real authority. "It is so very important for the DNI to have the ability to say, you are going to do this, you're going to do that," he said. "Right now, our war in counter-terrorism looks more like kids' soccer, with everybody doing everything that they want to do in all directions. What we have got to have is make it look like more organized professional football where you have plays and people know what they're supposed to do, and some adult in charge."

Some say the DNI post has the potential for great abuse. Lee Hamilton, vice-chairman of the 9-11 investigating commission, says it is important that Congress exercise strong oversight on DNI activities. "Keep in mind that we have created very powerful offices and institutions. If you look at the powers given to the director of national intelligence, they are quite impressive. And if it is effectively implemented, that position will be among the most powerful in the United States government," he said.

Mr. Negroponte must still be confirmed by the Senate.

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