FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3, 2004
Schumer: President’s Toothless Intelligence Director Is All Hat And No Cattle - Asks 9/11 Commission Members To Weigh In
President’s proposal for new Intelligence Director recommended by 9/11 Commission would create a straw figure with no power or budgetary authority
Schumer – Chair of the Senate Democratic Task Force on National Security – asks Members of 9/11 Commission to hold White House’s feet to the fire and give Director the strength needed to get job done
US Senator Charles E. Schumer today warned President Bush against any attempt to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission by creating an Intelligence Director in name only – without power or budget authority as the President outlined yesterday – and asked the Members of the 9/11 Commission to weigh in and urge the White House to create the strong Intelligence Director outlined in their report.
“The President’s proposal is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle,” Schumer said. “The 9/11 Commission made it clear that we need big guns coordinating intelligence, and instead the President wants an empty water pistol. He replaces the bad intelligence stovepipes with an even-worse smokescreen. The President said he was a ‘reformer with results,’ but this proposal is from a reorganizer without reform.”
One of the major shortfalls cited by the 9/11 Commission regarding the failure to prevent the attacks of 9/11 was the United States’ failure to “connect the dots” of what various parts of our intelligence community knew about the plot. Instead of talking to each other, intelligence agencies prized their turf and each held on to their little bits of information. Instead of being able to put together the pieces and perhaps head off the 9/11 plot, nearly 3,000 people suffered the tragic consequences.
In order to make sure that the culture of these organizations change and that information is shared so we never again fail to connect the dots, the 9/11 Commission – which the Bush White House initially strongly opposed – recommended that the United States create a National Intelligence Director who would have a close relationship with the President. This position would be part of the Executive Office of the President and who would have real power over budgets, personnel, and the 15 agencies in the intelligence community. This director would be able to oversee all intelligence, look at the big picture, and force agencies to share information.
President Bush’s proposal yesterday would implement the proposal in name only. In his Rose Garden news conference yesterday, the President proposed creating a National Intelligence Director but keeping it out of the Executive Office of the President and denying it real power over budgets and personnel. This intelligence director would be the worst of all worlds: cut out of the president's inner circle and lacking any real power. The new position as envisioned by President Bush would have little more authority than the current Director of Central Intelligence, would be inadequate to make the kind of changes needed to defend the American people, and would flatly contradict the proposals of the 9/11 Commission
In their testimony to the Senate Government Affairs Committee last week, 9/11 Commission Chairman Kean and Vice Chair Hamilton were emphatic in arguing that the National Intelligence Director needs sweeping authority over personnel, information technology, and intelligence spending because without a firm leader in charge the nation’s intelligence work will not successfully be done. They were also particularly clear that the National Intelligence Director would need the authority that comes with being part of the Executive Office of the President to cut across agencies and organize the intelligence community.
“The President’s proposal is all bark and no bite. It comes from the same White House that sends the President out for a photo-op in a forest just as his Administration slashes regulations against polluters. They promised to Leave No Child Behind, but cut the kids’ funding when push came to shove. If an Intelligence Director could function on goodwill and kind intentions between the bureaucracies, we wouldn’t need a Director in the first place. He needs leverage and he needs power, or the position’s power will be as thin as the paper on which its proposal is written,” Schumer said.
Schumer today wrote to the individual members of the 9/11 Commission, asking them to weigh in against the weak White House proposal.
“The events of the last few days have shown that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain as dedicated as ever to striking at the United States. The terrorists have made it clear that they are not going to settle for half-steps in their efforts to attack us, and America can’t settle for half-measures or bureaucratic reshuffling disguised as real reform to defend against them,” Schumer wrote to the Commissioners.