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Bush Signs Bill to Revamp US Intelligence Operations

President Bush has signed into law sweeping changes to U.S. intelligence operations, including a new Director of National Intelligence. The changes follow recommendations from a bipartisan commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

President Bush says these are the most dramatic U.S. intelligence reforms in more than 50 years.

"Under this new law, our vast intelligence enterprise will become more unified, coordinated, and effective," he announced. "It will enable us to better do our duty, which is to protect the American people."

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 creates a single Director of National Intelligence reporting directly to the president and serving above the head of the CIA.

President Bush says the director, or DNI, will better coordinate intelligence efforts, making them more efficient and more effective.

"The director will lead a unified intelligence community and will serve as the principle advisor to the president on intelligence matters," he explained. "The DNI 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."

Once appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, this new chief will have budgetary authority over all U.S. intelligence operations, including those currently controlled by the Defense Department.

There had been some opposition to those changes from Congressional allies of the Pentagon who said another layer of bureaucracy would slow the transfer of real-time intelligence to military commanders in the field.

President Bush says commanders will still have quick access to the intelligence they need to achieve victory on the battlefield.

He says the new law preserves the existing chain of command and leaves each intelligence operation in its current department. The CIA retains its core responsibility for collecting human intelligence abroad and analyzing all intelligence at the direction of the president.

Much of the legislation is based on the work of a bipartisan commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The president says one of the lessons of those attacks is that American law enforcement and intelligence officials must do a better job sharing information.

"The many reforms in this act have a single goal: to ensure that the people in government responsible for defending America have the best possible information to make the best possible decisions," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush signed the legislation in the same hall used to ratify the treaty establishing NATO after the Second World War. He drew parallels to the work of then-President Harry Truman who created the Defense Department, the CIA, and the National Security Council at the start of the Cold War.

"America in this new century, again faces new threats. Instead of massed armies, we face stateless networks," he said. "We face killers who hide in our own cities. We must confront deadly technologies. To inflict great harm on our country, America's enemies need to be right only once. Our intelligence and law enforcement professionals in our government must be right every single time."

The legislation faced opposition from some members of the president's own Republican Party. With this session of Congress winding down, President Bush and Vice President Cheney lobbied hard to get the bill through. Both the House and Senate ultimately passed the measure by wide margins.