President poised to give more power to CIA chief

Executive order is step toward implementing 9/11 panels proposals


WASHINGTON — 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 who have been briefed on the plan.

The order, to be issued as soon as this weekend, would be 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 congressional legislation.

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 between members of the Sept. 11 commission, legislators and the White House.

It is unclear whether it will be resolved before the presidential 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 document said they understood that it would effectively create as powerful a national intelligence chief as permissible 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 Wilkinson pointed out that Bush had said in an Aug. 2 announcement that he agreed with the Sept. 11 commission that intelligence reform was necessary.

"The president directed his administration to take swift action on reform initiatives that he has the authority to act on under current law," Wilkinson said. "These reforms are designed to help better secure our nation and improve our ability to bring our enemies to account."

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

The planned announcement, which will probably precede next weeks Republican National Convention, would come as part of a package that would include at least two other executive orders, the government officials said. One would create a new National Counterterrorism Center, with authority to direct operations in the realms of diplomacy, the military, intelligence, law enforcement and financial matters, and reporting to the director of central intelligence. That proposal would follow the lines of a recommendation by the Sept. 11 commission, which said such a center should report to the national intelligence chief.

The other executive order would be designed to promote greater information-sharing between intelligence agencies, the government officials said.

The officials said some details of the White House plans, including the extent of any new budget authority to be given to the director of central intelligence as part of the executive order, were still being debated within the administration. They said they understood that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was reluctant to limit the budgetary power currently wielded by the Pentagon, which controls an estimated 85 percent of the country's $40 billion intelligence budget.

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has criticized the White House for not having embraced earlier the Sept. 11 commissions recommendation to establish a national intelligence chief with real power and authority over intelligence agencies. The White House said earlier this month that it favored the creation of such a post, but Kerry and others, including Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have criticized the plan that Bush announced as not giving that intelligence chief sufficient authority.

John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director of central intelligence, has served as acting director of central intelligence since the resignation on July 11 of George J. Tenet. Bush has nominated Rep. Porter J. Goss, a Florida Republican, to become director of central intelligence.

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