Bush to Create New Unit in F.B.I. for Intelligence
WASHINGTON, June 29 - President Bush on Wednesday ordered changes intended to break down old walls between foreign and domestic intelligence activities by creating a new national security division within the Federal Bureau of Investigation that will fall under the overall direction of John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence.
The directive by Mr. Bush is aimed at consolidating the power of Mr. Negroponte, whose authority over the F.B.I. had been ambiguous. It also sets in motion a major restructuring designed to dissolve the barriers that have often kept the Central Intelligence Agency and the F.B.I. at arm's length, and elevates intelligence operations to new prominence within the F.B.I., which has remained firmly oriented toward traditional law enforcement, even since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
General Michael V. Hayden, the deputy director of national intelligence, said the government would take steps to ensure that the changes did not impinge on American civil liberties. But in a briefing for reporters, General Hayden also said that the United States no longer had the luxury of maintaining divisions between its foreign and domestic intelligence structures, because "our enemy does not recognize that distinction."
The White House left it to Mr. Negroponte to carry out the overhaul, which will almost certainly be met with reluctance within the F.B.I. and the 14 other agencies he oversees. Representative Jane Harman, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, cautioned that lasting change will require "sustained attention" from the White House.
"The F.B.I. will not get ahead of the terrorist threat if it doesn't have a fully dedicated intelligence service, and now it will," Ms. Harman, of California, said in an interview. "But this will require a massive culture change within the F.B.I., because the guns and badges and the mind-set of the F.B.I. don't totally fit with the challenges of countering terrorism."
The changes ordered by Mr. Bush are the among the most far-reaching yet taken by the Bush administration and Congress to overhaul an intelligence structure whose deep flaws have been exposed by major failures on terrorism and Iraq.
The White House announced the step as it accepted nearly all of the dozens of recommendations made three months ago by a nine-member presidential commission, headed by Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, that reviewed the law that created Mr. Negroponte's post.
The law left Mr. Negroponte with clear control over the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies that operate abroad, but the commission warned in a report in March that the legislation left his influence over the F.B.I. "troublingly vague," hampering effective oversight of the nation's intelligence operations.
Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said the changes would allow Mr. Negroponte to wield influence and seek information down to the level of each of the F.B.I.'s field offices, though she noted that the attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, would remain responsible for ensuring that intelligence activities in the United States did not violate American law.
"If there was any doubt about the D.N.I.'s authority and whether the president was going to empower the D.N.I., that shouldn't remain today," Ms. Townsend said at a White House briefing.
In a written statement, Mr. Robb praised Mr. Bush's response in strong terms, and a spokesman for Judge Silberman said that he shared those sentiments.
A memorandum sent by Mr. Bush to his top deputies said the changes would "ensure that the F.B.I.'s intelligence elements are responsive" to Mr. Negroponte. It said that the new security division, the National Security Service, to be headed by a senior F.B.I. official, would include the bureau's counterterrorism and counterintelligence divisions, as well as its intelligence directorate, and that all would be "subject to the coordination and budget powers" of the new intelligence chief.
The change ordered by Mr. Bush will create a new, semi-autonomous service within a service, headed by a chief who will report both to Mr. Negroponte and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller. The F.B.I. had long resisted that step, as well as the more far-reaching idea of creating a separate domestic intelligence service, like Britain's MI5, but Mr. Mueller agreed to the more limited change in response to strong pressure from the White House.
On Wednesday, Mr. Mueller called the creation of the National Security Service "the next step in the evolution of our ability to protect the American public." He and Mr. Gonzales rejected the suggestion that the F.B.I. would be losing autonomy or authority.
While Mr. Negroponte would have control over the F.B.I.'s intelligence budget, Mr. Gonzales said that intelligence officials "are not going to be directing law enforcement."
The broad outline of the White House plan for the restructuring had been previously known. But the tone of Mr. Bush's memorandum to his deputies and the tenor of the White House announcement made clear that the White House was determined to override any lingering misgivings within the F.B.I., on grounds that "further prompt action" was intended "to meet challenges to the security of the United States."
The announcement followed a 90-day review in which the White House decided to endorse 70 of the 74 recommendations made in the report issued on March 30 by the commission. The panel's main focus was to review intelligence operations related to combating the spread of illicit weapons, but it made the recommendations in response to a request from Mr. Bush that it review the sweeping intelligence reform law that Congress passed in December.
Among the steps announced by the White House was an executive order that Mr. Bush signed on Wednesday that extends to counterproliferation efforts a tool that has been used in the administration's bid to combat terrorism. The order authorizes steps to cut off financing and other support for groups or businesses involved in the spread of illicit weapons, and the Treasury Department immediately designated eight companies, from North Korea, Iran and Syria, as subject to an immediate asset freeze.
Other steps include the designation of new mission managers under Mr. Negroponte who will provide leadership on intelligence strategies aimed at high-profile targets, including Iran and North Korea. Another move will establish a center at the C.I.A. that will focus for the first time on the collection of open-source intelligence, a move that General Hayden said might ultimately reduce the need to steal secrets.
As expected, the White House also called for the creation of a National Counter Proliferation Center under Mr. Negroponte, to operate in parallel with the new National Counter Terrorism Center. The counterproliferation center would coordinate the government's collection and analysis of intelligence on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, leading a task now scattered among many national security agencies.
Along with Mr. Negroponte, the biggest winner in the White House review appeared to be the Central Intelligence Agency, whose director, Porter J. Goss, is subordinate to Mr. Negroponte. The plan called for the C.I.A. to maintain its pre-eminence on issues related to human spying and covert operations. Of the 74 recommendations, the only one rejected by the White House would have transferred planning for some covert operations from the C.I.A. to the new centers for counterterrorism and counterproliferation, which would have given the Pentagon a larger role.
The White House plan will leave the C.I.A. as the coordinator for human intelligence operations and create a new post there to try to head off conflicts between the agency and the Pentagon and the F.B.I., whose more aggressive human spying operations have begun to encroach on the C.I.A.'s traditional turf. The plan stopped short of embracing the commission's recommendation to create a human intelligence directorate, a step that C.I.A. officials had feared would undermine the authority of the agency's directorate of operations.
Nearly all of the changes announced by the White House can be carried out unilaterally, Ms. Townsend said. She said the White House had decided to defer action on three recommendations, including one calling for judgments about the accountability of individual intelligence units for missteps related to prewar assessments of Iraq. Ms. Townsend said Mr. Bush would work with Congress on three recommendations that would require legislation, including the creation of a position of assistant attorney general at the Justice Department that would centralize responsibility for intelligence and national security matters in a single office.
Eric Lichtblau contributed reporting for this article.