Spy-Agency Revision Triggers Turf War

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Wall Street Journal
May 12, 2008
Pg. 3
By Siobhan Gorman
WASHINGTON -- The White House is in the final stages of the first executive rewrite of spy-agency powers in more than 25 years, aiming to solidify the authorities of the new director of national intelligence as the administration winds down.
The revision has spawned bureaucratic showdowns with many of the 16 intelligence agencies. The main source of contention has been a move by the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, to ensure he has the power of the purse as well as over personnel, according to current and former officials.
The yearlong process reopened a number of the contentious battles stirred up by the 2004 intelligence-reform bill, which first created the new post of an intelligence director to oversee all the U.S. spy agencies. The Pentagon sees in the process an effort to take power from some of its biggest intelligence agencies while the Central Intelligence Agency worries about excessive meddling in its activities, current and former officials said.
"It's about power, and while everybody wants to do this for the good of their system, nobody wants to totally give up power to do it," said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior manager for the director of central intelligence, the post that preceded the new intelligence director.
The new order could be completed as early as this week, but may take a few more weeks to finalize, according to current and former intelligence officials.
The new authorities, to be laid out in a revised version of a Reagan-era presidential order known as Executive Order 12333, aim to carve out a clear role for the director, particularly in the area of hiring and firing agency heads and controlling program acquisitions, an administration official said. The new order isn't seeking to significantly change the intelligence director's authority over the budget beyond those made in 2004, officials said.
Agencies have used the executive order, which dates back to 1981, to argue against complying with requests from the director of national intelligence. The new order aims to remove "some of those barriers," the administration official said.
The details haven't been finalized, but the broad goal of the rewrite is to state clearly which agency is responsible for foreign intelligence, domestic intelligence, as well as human spying. These areas have been hotly contested among agencies including the CIA, the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.
"When you open this up, everyone tries to jump in and grab more authority for themselves," said an administration official.
The new director's effort would exert more control over agencies the Pentagon has traditionally monitored, for example. Pentagon intelligence operations serve the military but also collect intelligence for national policy makers.
The Pentagon has its own set of rewrites under way to update the charters of the intelligence agencies under its roof, which an administration official said would assert more Pentagon authority over them. The intelligence director would like to make his mark first, the administration official said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder said the charters were totally separate from the executive order and described them as an effort "to ensure that they are up to date and in alignment with recent legislation and other policy-associated actions."
The new order has inflamed tensions between the new director and the CIA. For example, the new director is seeking to be the primary contact for foreign intelligence officials instead of the CIA, officials said.
Defenders of the CIA say that arrangement would create confusion for foreign governments. They also worry about interference from above, especially because a recent version of the order gives cabinet secretaries authority over intelligence operations within their departments. That could leave the CIA as the sole direct focus of the DNI.
"The DNI was created to give strategic guidance to the whole intelligence community, not micromanage the day-to-day activities of its members," said one U.S. official.