Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rouge intelligence operations?

Laura Rozen points out a story in today's Washington Post detailing concerns that the Department of Defense may not be following the rules.
Republican members of Congress say there are signs that the Defense Department may be carrying out new intelligence activities through programs intended to escape oversight from Congress and the new director of national intelligence.

The warnings are an unusually public signal of some Republican lawmakers' concern about overreaching by the Pentagon, where top officials have been jockeying with the new intelligence chief, John D. Negroponte, for primacy in intelligence operations
The creation of a National Intelligence Director did not go over well with many in the intelligence community. It doesn't appear these activities were well concealed and so were likely a symptom of bureaucratic infighting and not evidence of activities that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would like to keep from the Congress. Rumsfeld's publicly announced ideas are problematic enough; we probably don't want to know about the ones he feels he must keep to himself. That said, the activities need to come to a halt until proper oversight is restored.
As part of the intelligence overhaul that Congress ordered last year, Mr. Negroponte, as director of national intelligence, is supposed to oversee 15 intelligence agencies whose activities fall under a budget category known as the National Intelligence Program. Mr. Negroponte has less authority over programs that fall under another category, the Military Intelligence Program, which are intended to provide tactical and strategic support to military commanders.

But the concern expressed by [Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee] and others is focused on a third category of programs involving intelligence activity but not labeled as such, and included within the budgets of the individual military services.

In the interview, Mr. Hoekstra said the committee had been told that the Pentagon was creating parallel structures "so they don't have to deal with the D.N.I.," the abbreviation for the new intelligence chief.
The two massive changes President Bush has made, the Department of Homeland Security and the creation of a Director of Intelligence have both expanded the government and contributed to confusion and resentment. While some form of streamlined coordination organization or board could have helped the federal government do its work better in both areas, the DHS and the NID have merely added additional levels of bureaucracy. In addition, at least in the case of DHS, it created new patronage positions that should have been filled by experienced professionals.

- Murphy

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