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Former US Officials Recommend Changes in Intelligence Gathering - 2003-10-14

Some former U.S. intelligence officials are urging major changes in intelligence-gathering in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The recommendations are being considered by the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks.

Former CIA Director John Deutsch told the commission he would like to see foreign and domestic intelligence gathering combined under a single director of national intelligence.

"That separation of foreign and domestic intelligence collection places limits on the effectiveness of our intelligence, which I believe have to be removed in order to better combat terrorist threats," he said.

Currently, the CIA is responsible for foreign intelligence gathering while the FBI oversees domestic intelligence.

But Mr. Deutsch, who served as CIA director and defense secretary under President Clinton, says the FBI is too concerned with law enforcement to effectively gather and analyze domestic threats.

"But the heart of the matter is to have a set of dedicated and capable intelligence analysts who have access to all available information and who can objectively give you their unvarnished best estimate," said John Deutsch. "It does not guarantee you successful intelligence because the policy maker may still not listen. But you have to have the elements collect the information, do fabulous analysis, and have a policy maker that is willing to listen."

Mr. Deutsch and James Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser, also support the establishment of a domestic security service modeled after Britain's MI-5, which has the authority to monitor suspected terrorists inside the country.

Bush administration officials are resisting the idea of setting up a domestic agency like MI-5 out of concern that many Americans might find it too intrusive. The administration has established the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which pools intelligence data from the CIA, the FBI, and other government agencies.

But not everyone believes that U.S. intelligence gathering is in need of a major bureaucratic overhaul. James Schlesinger served as President Nixon's CIA Director in 1973.

"No one would question that management can always be improved," he said. "But major organizational change is not the salvation. I would submit that the real challenge lies in recruiting, fostering, training, and motivating people with insight."

But Mr. Schlesinger also told the independent commission probing the September 11 attacks that U.S. intelligence officials need to do a better job of reaching (out) to a wider variety of sources for information.

"There was, I think, insufficient contact with people in the oil industry with regard to the ferment in the Middle East," said James Schlesinger. "These people are out there. They know what is going on. They know what is going on better than somebody sitting in his cubicle at [CIA Headquarters at Langley, Virginia] or at the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]."

A congressional inquiry into the September 11 terrorist attacks found that serious failings by the intelligence agencies left the United States vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The independent commission probing the 2001 terrorist attacks is looking at a possible restructuring of the intelligence establishment as part of its mandate to consider how the country can better defend itself against future terrorist attacks.