Bush prepares to give more power to CIA director

Step to implementing 9/11 panel's proposals

The Nation

August 27, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - President Bush is preparing to issue an executive order that would immediately grant more power to the director of central intelligence, designating him to fill much of the role envisioned for a future national intelligence director, according to senior government officials briefed on the plan.

The order, to be issued as soon as this weekend, is cast as an interim measure intended as a first step toward putting into effect recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, whose call for a new, more powerful national intelligence chief would require acts of Congress.

With a broad consensus emerging in support of such an intelligence chief, the White House is expected to continue to ask Congress to approve the post, the government officials said. But the question of how much authority should be given to a new intelligence chief remains the subject of sharp debate among members of the Sept. 11 commission, legislators and the White House.

It is unclear whether it will be resolved before the election.

The interim action by the White House would strengthen the hand of the current director of central intelligence, who heads the CIA and has nominal authority over all other intelligence agencies but whose actual powers beyond the CIA have been limited.

The government officials who have been briefed on the order said they understood that it would effectively create as powerful a national intelligence chief as allowed under current law.

Among other things, the executive order will direct the heads of other agencies, including the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, to allow the director of central intelligence to exercise his full authority on budgetary and other matters.

Jim Wilkinson, a deputy national security adviser, declined to comment on any White House plans for executive orders on intelligence matters and said discussions within the administration were continuing.

But he noted that Bush had said in an Aug. 2 announcement that he agreed with the Sept. 11 commission that intelligence reform was necessary.

The plan was described by four senior government officials who have been briefed on it, including those from Congress and the executive branch.

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has criticized the White House for not having embraced earlier the Sept. 11 commission's recommendation to establish a national intelligence chief with real power and authority.

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