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September 11 Probe Officials Defend Plan for Intelligence Director - 2004-08-11

Top officials of the September 11 commission say establishing a national intelligence director would not jeopardize military operations. Pentagon officials, however, remain cautious about the plan.

Leaders of the commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States acknowledge that lawmakers and defense department officials have concerns about their proposal to create a national intelligence director to coordinate the gathering and sharing of intelligence.

The key concern is that the plan would remove the defense secretary from direct and immediate control over national intelligence assets.

Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton told the House Armed Services Committee the solution to the problem is to make the Pentagon's undersecretary for intelligence a top deputy to the director. "It is unimaginable to us that the national intelligence director would not give protection of our forces deployed in the field a very high, if not the highest priority," said Vice Chairman Hamilton.

But Army General Bryan Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, cautioned the committee against rushing into implementing such a plan. "I think it is fair to say that I just think we need more study on it," he said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz agreed. "Done wrong, it would sort of hoard everything into Washington, and somebody at a high level would have to decide who would look at it and that would be a mistake," he said.

President Bush has endorsed the proposal to establish a national intelligence director as well as a counter-terrorism center. But he disagreed with the commission's recommendation to place both the center and the director within the White House.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats wrote to President Bush urging him to call Congress back from summer recess to pass legislation to reform the intelligence community.

Ms. Pelosi said she would like to see some of the proposals implemented by September 11 of this year. "We would like to have some of the measures in the recommendations in place by the third anniversary of the nine-eleven tragedy," she said.

She said she hopes all the proposals could be enacted this year.