Bush to Set Up Counterterrorism Center, Asks for Intel Adviser
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2004 President Bush will establish a National Counterterrorism Center and will ask Congress to create the position of national intelligence director, he said during a White House news conference today.
Bush said he will announce further changes to the intelligence effort in the future.
All institutions and levels of government, Bush said, must be fully prepared for a struggle against terror. "Our goal is an integrated, unified, national intelligence effort," he said. "Many of these changes are specific recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Others will go further than the proposal of the commission's report."
The reforms are aimed at ensuring that decision makers have the best information in the war on terror, Bush said. Congress must create the position of national intelligence director. The president would nominate his choice for the position to the Senate for confirmation, as is the practice for many appointed officials now. "The national intelligence director will serve as the president's principal intelligence adviser and will oversee and coordinate the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community," Bush said.
The national intelligence director would have the authority to "coordinate" the budgets of the 15 separate intelligence agencies. "I want - and every president must have - the best, unbiased, unvarnished assessment of America's intelligence professionals," Bush said.
The National Counterterrorism Center will build on the work of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, and will become the government's data bank for information about known and suspected terrorists.
The Terrorist Threat Integration Center, based at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., just outside Washington, grew out of a proposal Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address. The center merged terrorist-related information collected domestically and abroad in order to form the most comprehensive possible threat picture.
The new counterterrorism center will coordinate and monitor plans and activities of all government agencies and departments to ensure effective joint action and that U.S. efforts are unified in priority and purpose.
The center will prepare the daily terrorism threat report for the president and senior officials. The director of the new center will report to the national intelligence director once that position is created. Until then, the director of the center will report to the director of central intelligence.
Bush said that with the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction and missile proliferation, "it may also be necessary to create a similar center in our government to bring together our intelligence analysis, planning and operations to track and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction."
The president said the federal government already has taken many steps to address the terrorist threat. "Across the world, we've aggressively pursued al Qaeda terrorists, destroyed their training camps and ended their sanctuaries," he said. "We're working closely with other countries to gather intelligence and make arrests and to cut off terrorist finances."
Bush said his most solemn duty is to protect the United States. "In the three years since our country was attacked, we've taken steps to overcome new threats," he noted. "We will continue to do everything in our power to defeat the terrorist enemy and to protect the American people."