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9/11 Investigators May Recommend Big Changes for US Intelligence Agencies - 2004-07-18


Members of the commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States are expected to submit their findings and recommendations this week.

There are now more than a dozen U.S. government entities involved in intelligence gathering. The commission is expected to urge the president to put one person in charge.

Although the commission report is not due until Thursday, glimpses of the panel's recommendations are appearing in major American newspapers and news magazines.

Those reports say commission members will urge creation of a new Cabinet-level post that would oversee all the intelligence functions of the United States government, a move that could take away significant power from the people who run the CIA, the Defense Department and other agencies.

The acting director of Central Intelligence, John McLaughlin, does not like the idea, and says it will do more harm than good. The CIA chief told the Fox News Sunday television program that reform is needed, but not another layer of bureaucracy.

"I see the director of central intelligence as someone who is able to do that and empowered to do that under the national security act of 1947," said Mr. McLaughlin. "So, I think with some modest changes in the way it is set up, the director of central intelligence can carry out that function well and appropriately."

Mr. McLaughlin was also asked about news reports the commission cites a possible link between al-Qaida and Iran.

He stressed he has not read the full commission document. But he confirmed that many of the hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks traveled through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001.

He said that is not surprising, noting that members of terrorist groups often transit Iran. But he cautioned it does not signal direct involvement by Tehran in the attacks.

"We have ample evidence of people being able to move back and forth across that terrain," he said. "However, I would stop there and say we have no evidence that there is some sort of official sanction by the government for this activity."

On CNN'S Late Edition, two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee weighed in with their thoughts on the matter.

Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois said the revelations are worrisome. "We focus so much energy on Iraq, when other countries may have been more directly linked to 9/11," said Senator Durbin. "That should give us pause as well."

But Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia came to the defense of the Bush administration, saying it has always been concerned about Iran. "I think the administration has been paying a lot of attention to Iran," added Senator Chambliss. "We know that they are working on even more nuclear capability than they have got now. The administration has been very focused on that."

The United States has long considered Iran to be a state sponsor of terrorism, and is using international pressure to get Tehran to give up its nuclear program. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency is looking into allegations Iran's nuclear power program is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.

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