Commission Recommends Intelligence Overhaul
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 31, 2005 A presidential commission has recommended a fundamental overhaul of the U.S. intelligence community.
The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction delivered its report to President Bush today. In remarks after he met with commission members at the White House, the president thanked the commission - headed by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb, for its "thoughtful and extremely significant" conclusions.
The commission grew out of what many people call a failure of intelligence running up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Intelligence estimates said Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and was working to develop more. When officials tried to find these sites, all they found were research labs. They have not found stockpiles.
Bush said the report criticized the way intelligence has been collected and analyzed against some of the most difficult intelligence targets, especially Iraq.
The president said that since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has worked to prevent further attacks and overcome emerging threats. "We face a new and different kind of enemy," he said. "The threats today are unprecedented. The lives of our citizens are at stake. To protect them, we need the best intelligence possible, and we must stay ahead of constantly changing intelligence challenges."
Defense officials have consistently said that their greatest fear is if international terrorists get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. They say these groups will have no compunction about using this capability. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said an attack with these types of weapons would make the 3,000 killed in the attacks of Sept. 11 pale by comparison.
"To win the war on terror, we will correct what needs to be fixed and build on what the commission calls solid intelligence successes," Bush said. "These include the uncovering of Libya's nuclear and missile programs. In Pakistan, our intelligence helped expose and shut down the world's most dangerous nuclear proliferation network.
"Where we have had success, the commission reports, we have seen innovative collection techniques and a fusion of interagency intelligence capabilities," the president continued. "We must work to replicate these successes in other areas."
DoD officials also pledged to take the report's recommendations to heart. "I have asked that DoD officials responsible for intelligence activities review the report with care, undertake a systematic review of the commission's recommendations, and make suggestions to me for improvements," Rumsfeld said in a written statement.
The commission's findings must be taken in conjunction with the report of the 9/11 Commission. That report also faulted intelligence, and there has already been progress in eliminating the shortcomings. "My administration has taken steps consistent with the commission's recommendations," Bush said. "In February I named John Negroponte the first director of national intelligence, a post that was created to help ensure that our intelligence community works as a single unified enterprise."
Bush noted that it is only the intelligence failures that get attention. "The work of our intelligence community is extremely difficult work," he said. "Every day, dangerous regimes are working to prevent us from uncovering their programs and their possible relationships with terrorists. And the work our intelligence men and women do is by nature secret, which is why the American people never hear about many of their successes."
Bush said the changes proposed will help give intelligence professionals the tools they need. "Our collection and analysis of intelligence will never be perfect, but in an age where our margin for error is getting smaller, in an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives," he said.