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Bush Says He Wants to Reform Intelligence Community - 2004-07-19


President Bush says he wants to reform the U.S. intelligence community, and is open to all ideas.

The commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States is expected to call this week for a change of command in the intelligence community.

There are strong signs commission members will urge the president to put a national intelligence director in his Cabinet. That person would oversee the work of all U.S. intelligence entities, including the CIA, the FBI, parts of the Pentagon and numerous other agencies.

The goal would be to correct inefficiencies and redundancies, and to get these various offices spread throughout the government working together in a more coordinated way.

Acting CIA chief John McClaughlin said Sunday that he does not like the idea, stressing it would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. When asked about those comments, President Bush refused to take sides. He stressed the commission's recommendations have not been released, and said he wants to have a chance to study them all before casting judgment.

"I look forward to seeing those recommendations," said Mr. Bush. "They share the same desires I share, which is to make sure the president and the Congress get the best possible intelligence."

The commission's findings and recommendations are to be released Thursday, just a few weeks after investigators for the Senate issued their report on intelligence failures.

George Tenet, who headed the CIA at the time of the September 11 attacks and stayed on during the Iraq war, left his post about the same time the Senate report was made public. President Bush was asked if he is ready to name a permanent replacement.

"[I am] Still thinking about it," he said. "I will let you know when it is going to happen. I know there is intense speculation over time. People get their hopes built up. But I am still taking a good, hard look."

There are two schools of thought on naming a permanent replacement for George Tenet. Some say it is essential to act quickly, given the demands of the war on terrorism. Others say it might be a good idea to wait until after the November presidential election, saying a nomination sent to the Senate at the height of the campaign could become the focus of a protracted political debate.

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