GOP plan virtually dismantles the CIA

The Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee unveiled a radical proposal Sunday to remove most of the nation's major intelligence gathering operations from the CIA and Pentagon and place them under the control of a national intelligence director.

The plan, announced by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and endorsed by seven other committee Republicans, is more severe than the Sept. 11 commission's reorganization proposed last month. It would result in the virtual dismantling of the CIA. It also would severely curb the power and influence of the Defense Department, which controls the bulk of the federal classified intelligence budget.

Under the plan, the CIA's three main directorates would be torn from the agency and turned into separate entities reporting to separate directors. The Pentagon would lose control of three of its largest operations as well, including the secret National Security Agency, which intercepts electronic signals worldwide.

The proposal came as a shock to Senate Democrats and the White House, which had not been told about the plan's details. Congress is holding hearings on how to remodel the nation's intelligence agencies after shortcomings outlined by the Sept. 11 commission.

Roberts, in an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation, said the Republicans focused on ''the national security threats that face this country today'' in fashioning the proposal.

''We didn't pay attention to turf or agencies or boxes,'' Roberts said. ``I'm trying to build a consensus around something that's very different and very bold.''

But the plan ran into several immediate obstacles, including a committee Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who said on the same CBS broadcast: ``It's a mistake to begin with a partisan bill, no matter what is in it.''

And while the White House indicated it would study the proposal, a senior intelligence official said Sunday that the plan ``makes no sense.''

''Rather than eliminating stovepipes, this will create more of them,'' said the intelligence official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the political debate.

``Rather than bringing intelligence disciplines together, it smashes them apart. . . . This proposal is unworkable and would hamper rather than enhance the nation's intelligence operations.''

The plan was welcomed by the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who has endorsed the changes advocated by the Sept. 11 commission, including creation of a national intelligence director.

Rand Beers, the campaign's national security advisor, said in a statement that the Senate GOP proposal ''is very similar to the reforms offered by John Kerry but needs to become bipartisan to be fully successful.'' Beers accused President Bush of ``dragging his feet and resisting any real changes.''

The proposal adds an unpredictable element to the tumultuous political debate over how to improve the nation's intelligence apparatus as Congress works toward voting on legislation before the November elections.

The debate, carried out in some 22 hearings scheduled during Congress' usual August recess, has revolved primarily around the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, which released a final report last month calling for creation of a national intelligence director who would control the budgets of the various U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Bush administration unveiled its plan to create a national intelligence director but not give the individual control over budgets or operations of the agencies. In congressional testimony last week, John McLaughlin, acting CIA director, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged caution.

''If we move unwisely and get it wrong, the penalty would be great,'' Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

[Fuente: BY Dan Egtgen, The Miami Herald, Usa, 23Aug04]

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