A U.S. commission studying ways to fight terrorism has recommended that the government establish a domestic intelligence agency to collect information about potential terrorist attacks. The commission also wants that agency to report directly to President Bush.
The panel, headed by former Virginia Governor James Gilmore, warns in its latest report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should not be turned into what the commission calls a "secret police" with the sole mission of preventing terrorist attacks.
Mr. Gilmore says the FBI should focus on law enforcement, while a new intelligence agency, called the National Counter Terrorism Center, should coordinate information about possible attacks. "If you take an organization that has an arrest function and then you place with it a stepped up intelligence gathering organization against the terrorists and you begin to put these things together," says Mr. Gilmore. "There is the risk that the arrest capacity together with the intelligence operation does begin to create more of a feeling toward a secret police."
The panel's proposal to revamp America's intelligence gathering operations comes a week after a report by a joint congressional committee that recommended the appointment of a Cabinet-level intelligence chief. Mr. Gilmore's commission, which was established by the U.S. Congress before last year's September 11 attacks, also proposes that the military be used to fight terrorism inside the United States only in support of civilian authorities.
Mr. Gilmore says protecting individual liberties is critical to winning the war against terrorism. "Protecting this democracy and the individual freedoms of the American people is paramount to achieving ultimate victory in this conflict," he says. "Coming through this crisis without diminishing our freedoms or our core values of individual liberty is the whole ball game. If we pursue security to the point at which we give up that which makes us Americans then the enemy has won."
The Gilmore commission's report says while the United States has won significant victories since the September 11 attacks, much work still needs to be done to protect against strikes inside America. Next year is the final year for the panel and Mr. Gilmore says he plans to focus on protecting the nation's critical infrastructure.
Mr. Gilmore says that is a problem so big he feels a separate commission should be established to identify strategies to protect critical systems such as power operations, transportation and water supplies.