9/11 Commission: Building the New Intel Community
9/11 Commission:
Building the New Intel Community

Under construction: The Terrorist Threat Integration Center in McLean, Va.
Chris Usher for Newsweek
By Mark Hosenball  and Tamara Lipper

Aug. 16 issue - In the next few days President George W. Bush is expected to produce detailed proposals for implementing key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Officials say the president will issue executive orders for a National Counterterrorism Center, which the commission says is needed so that information about terrorist plots is shared among all relevant agencies. This will likely mean renaming the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, an interagency unit set up last year under CIA officer John Brennan, who currently reports to the CIA director. The president is likely to expand the center's staff and have it oversee the emergency response to an attack. The center is already ensconced in its own building at a secret location in northern Virginia, where crews are installing an ultra-high-tech command center (with more than 138 video screens) that was designed with outside advisers, including the Disney Company.

More problematic is the commission's proposal for a new national intelligence director. In internal administration deliberations, the Pentagon, CIA and FBI have all been cool to this idea, and when Bush announced his initial endorsement of the recommendation, he was vague about the powers a new espionage czar should be granted. A White House official says the president is preparing a detailed proposal in which he will spell out what authority the new intel overlord should have. It's then up to Congress to decide what to do. Legislators will have to sort out their own turf wars over intelligence oversight (a problem heavily scrutinized by the commission) before they reorganize the information-gathering community.

Earlier this summer there was much speculation that the president might tap House intelligence committee chairman Porter Goss, a former CIA officer, to replace George Tenet as CIA director. But Goss's chances suffered when Senate Democrats said they would fight if the Florida Republican were nominated. The White House made overtures to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to see if he wanted the job, but administration sources tell NEWSWEEK that Armitage wasn't interested. Some CIA critics, including prominent neoconservatives, say former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani could be a great CIA reformer. But there is no indication Giuliani would take the job. Intelligence professionals think an ideal new CIA chief would be the professorial Acting Director John McLaughlin. But McLaughlin, a career intelligence analyst, is taking nothing for granted. Even though Tenet vacated the CIA executive suite several weeks ago, McLaughlin has left the director's chair vacant, preferring to work out of the office he has occupied for the last four years as CIA deputy director.

2004 Newsweek, Inc.