Bush tries to reassure CIA in visit

The agency's role will be diminished amid restructuring

March 04, 2005|By Greg Miller | Greg Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - President Bush paid a rare visit to the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va., yesterday in an effort to boost morale at an agency that will have a diminished role after a restructuring of the U.S. intelligence community.

Bush said the purpose of the trip was to reassure agency employees that the CIA would continue to play a primary role in the collection and analysis of intelligence on terrorism and other threats.

"Obviously, one of the reasons I came here is because I know there's some uncertainty about what this reform means to the people of the CIA," Bush said. "And I wanted to assure them that the reforms will strengthen their efforts and make it easier for them to do their job, not harder."

Under legislation passed last year, the CIA and its director, Porter J. Goss, are to relinquish several of the key functions and authorities the agency has held for nearly half a century.

Most notably, the new position of director of national intelligence has been created to take over responsibility for coordinating the activities of the CIA and the other 14 agencies of the U.S. spy community. That new director will also replace the CIA chief in delivering a daily briefing to the president.

In remarks to the news media after meeting with Goss and other agency officials, Bush stressed that the CIA would remain "the center of the intelligence community" even after reforms are implemented. Last month, Bush nominated U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John D. Negroponte to serve as the nation's first intelligence director. His confirmation hearing is expected to begin next month.

Earlier yesterday, Bush said at a separate event that preventing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden from striking the United States again is "the greatest challenge of our day." Bush returned to the subject at CIA headquarters, saying U.S. intelligence agencies "spend every day gathering information to locate Osama bin Laden" and other al-Qaida leaders.

"I came out here to remind people that we've had great success" capturing several of bin Laden's lieutenants, Bush said. "But there's more work to be done. ... As far as I'm concerned and as far as the CIA is concerned, it's a matter of time before we bring these people to justice."

Bush's visit came one day after Goss made a public appearance, at which he said he was "amazed at the workload" of the job of CIA director. Goss made the remark during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

"The jobs I'm being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal," Goss said, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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