Intelligence office reports its efforts are `incomplete'

No. 2 official gives House progress report, disputes worry about bureaucracy

July 29, 2005|By Siobhan Gorman | Siobhan Gorman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Testifying for the first time as the country's No. 2 intelligence official, Gen. Michael V. Hayden gave Congress what he called a "report card" yesterday on his office's first three months of work.

The grade: incomplete.

Appearing before a House intelligence subcommittee, Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency, defended the new office against criticism that it will make intelligence dissemination more difficult by creating additional bureaucratic barriers.

Yesterday was also the young office's first deadline: for establishing a plan to oversee espionage across all 15 U.S. intelligence agencies. That, too, is a work in progress.

"What's the report card for the first three months?" Hayden asked rhetorically. "We've gotten out of the starting gates."

He listed five areas in which, he said, the new office, headed by Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, has made progress: getting established, setting an organizational structure, hiring senior-level officials, becoming the president's lead intelligence adviser, and attempting to manage the 15 federal intelligence agencies.

The strongest challenge to Hayden came from Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who questioned whether the new office would merely be another level of bureaucracy, rather than a solution to the nation's intelligence shortcomings.

"I almost fell out of my chair," Rogers said, after Hayden said his office would grow to as many as 700 people. "That's outrageous."

Throughout the hearing, Hayden tried to emphasize that he was working to make intelligence agencies, collectively, "more agile." He said his aim was to "reduce impediments" to letting intelligence officers do their jobs.

Noting that the Islamic extremists operate in structured networks, Hayden said his office would try to emulate that model.

"We need to look more and more like a network ourselves," Hayden said.

Some of the concerns about potential new bureaucratic turf wars and lack of direction stem from experiences at the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We want to make sure they don't make the same mistakes that were made with the Department of Homeland Security," Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland said after the hearing. "We don't have time. Al-Qaida isn't going to wait for us."

Ruppersberger added that it was up to Congress, as well as Negroponte, to make sure the new intelligence organization does more good than harm.

Negroponte's office had been ordered by the White House to develop a plan by yesterday for managing human intelligence collection across all federal intelligence agencies.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the deadline had not been met.

An initial plan, still under internal review, calls for the appointment of a national human-intelligence manager who would be responsible for setting standards across all 15 intelligence agencies. This manager would report to Negroponte but work at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

A former senior intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the plan as the first step in a larger realignment of intelligence responsibilities.

The realignment would refocus the CIA primarily on human espionage, much as the NSA is focused on signals intelligence from intercepted communications. As part of the realignment, the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology might be transferred to the NSA or other agencies, the former official added.

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