Originally Published 2005-02-22 08:45:24 Published on Feb 22, 2005
President George Bush announced on February 17, 2005, his nomination of John Negroponte, an officer of the US Foreign Service, who is presently the US Ambassador to Iraq, as the first US Director of National Intelligence (DNI). He would assume charge after he is confirmed by the Senate.
President George Bush announced on February 17, 2005, his nomination of John Negroponte, an officer of the US Foreign Service, who is presently the US Ambassador to Iraq, as the first US Director of National Intelligence (DNI). He would assume charge after he is confirmed by the Senate.

Bush also nominated Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) of the Defence Department, to be the deputy of the DNI. By doing so, Bush has kept up the tradition generally followed in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under which if the chief is a civilian, his No.2 is from the Armed Forces and vice versa. The NSA is one of the principal agencies responsible for the collection of technical intelligence (TECHINT).

As recommended by the 9/11 National Commission, which submitted its report last year, Negroponte will oversee the functioning of all the national intelligence agencies of the US intelligence community. In the US, a distinction is sought to be made between national intelligence agencies and departmental agencies. A national agency caters to the intelligence requirements of a number of departments, but a departmental agency essentially caters to the requirements of only one department. For example, the CIA, the NSA, etc are national agencies whereas the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the intelligence directorates of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines are departmental agencies. It is not clear what powers of supervision the DNI will have over the DIA and these intelligence directorates. The 9/11 Commission had not recommended bringing them too under his control.

The 9/11 Commission's recommendation was that the DNI should bring about a multi-agency approach in respect of intelligence collection and dissemination and budgeting. The Commission wanted that he should have a pivotal role in the selection of the chiefs of all the agencies, in allotting operational responsibilities to different agencies, in preparing a single budget for the entire intelligence community, in getting it approved by the Congress, in making the allocations out of the sum approved by the Congress and in overseeing the performance of the agencies.

The Commission's recommendations were due to two major deficiencies noticed by it in the functioning of the intelligence community. The first was there was no single individual in the intelligence community who had knowledge of all human intelligence (HUMINT) operations and was able to prevent wrong practices such as the overlapping of operations, different agencies running the same source, one agency recruiting a source discarded by another etc. Even though the Commission's report did not specifically cite this, the most glaring example was the case of Ahmed Chalabi, who was tried and discarded by the CIA as unreliable, but was recruited by the DIA. It is widely believed that it was he who gave to the DIA and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, much of the wrong information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The second deficiency noticed by the Commission related to the tendency of the intelligence agencies to avoid sharing with each other all the intelligence collected by them. They generally shared intelligence, which in their view called for immediate action by others, but avoided sharing intelligence, which did not seem to call for immediate action and needed to be further verified or enquired into. If they had shared immediately, they might have found that the additional details, which they were looking for, were already available in the files of other agencies. The Commission wanted that every agency should know what intelligence other agencies already had in their possession, whether immediately actionable or not.

The Commission, therefore, proposed that the working principle of all intelligence agencies should be not only the need to know as it was before, but also the need to share.It wanted that there should be one man in the US Administration directly under the President who should be responsible for tasking the agencies, deciding on their individual operational responsibilities, approving all their major operations, keeping track of how they carry them out and ensuring that all intelligence collected is shared among the agencies of the community.

The Commission also wanted the DNI to be given the additional responsibility of supervising the new National Counter-Terrorism Centre, which would come directly under his control and would help him in exercising his responsibilities relating to the so-called war against terrorism.

While the Commission thus wanted that the DNI should be the principal intelligence adviser to the President and should function as the intelligence overlord in respect of all senior appointments, tasking, operations and budgeting, it did not specifically say that it wanted him to be the analysis chief of the President. This gave rise to an inference that it wanted that the responsibility for analysing the intelligence collected and advising the President on what the intelligence implied should rest with the chiefs of the various agencies and should not be entrusted to him. They were apparently worried that if one man was made responsible for all analysis, differing points of view and perceptions may not reach the President, resulting in serious errors in decision-making.

The Commission also wanted that in future the CIA should be responsible only for political covert actions and that all responsibility for para-military covert actions should be transferred to the Special Operations Command of the Pentagon. This has apparently already been done as one could see from the active role Rumsfeld is now playing in the launching and co-ordination of para-military operations relating to neutralising Iran's military nuclear capability.

One does not know yet whether all the recommendations of the Commission have been accepted and whether the DNI would have the same powers as envisaged by the Commission. Obviously not, as one saw during the debate in the Congress on the Bill to give effect to the Commission's recommendations when the Congressional members close to the Pentagon insisted that the creation of the post of the intelligence czar should not derogate from the powers presently enjoyed by the Defence Secretary in respect of the collection and utilisation of operational intelligence, required for military operations.

While nominating Negroponte to this new post, Bush stated as follows:

· The job would be a vital part of US counter-terrorism operations. 
· Negroponte understands America's global intelligence needs because he has spent the better part of his life in the nation's foreign service. 
· "If we are going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we have to ensure that the intelligence agencies work as a single unified enterprise." 
· Negroponte will take primary responsibility for delivering the President's daily intelligence briefing and will set budgets for the intelligence agencies. 

From the President's last observation it would seem that the DNI would also act as his analysis chief. 

It is too early to say how effectively the DNI would be able to co-ordinate the working of all the intelligence agencies and whether Rumsfeld and the Pentagon agencies would allow him to do so. Robert McNamara, the powerful Defence Secretary under President John Kennedy, who set up the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) with the idea of using it to ensure the co-ordination of the four intelligence directorates of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, found it very difficult to do so.

In practice, there was so much resistance from different wings of the Armed Forces to shedding some of t heir powers in favour of the DIA that ultimately many of the ideas of McNamara had to be watered down, if not abandoned. This was the difficulty McNamara faced when all the chiefs of his intelligence agencies including the chief of the DIA were from the Armed Forces and were hence birds of the same feather.

Would Negroponte, a foreign service officer, be able to succeed in co-ordinating the work of 15 intelligence agencies--one of them (the CIA) coming directly under the President, one (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) coming under the Attorney-General and the others coming under the Defence Secretary? It has been reported that since this is a newly-created post, Bush wanted that the first incumbent should be an intelligence professional, who knew the job of intelligence and whose words would carry weight in the intelligence community. All those approached reportedly declined, apparently because they were not confident they would be effective. Robert Gates, the former chief of the CIA under George Bush Sr, the father of the present President, has publicly said that he declined to take up this post.

In the intelligence parlance, the word operation refers to the process of collecting and disseminating intelligence as well as covert actions. Will Rumsfeld willingly surrender to the supervision of Negroponte all the covert actions mounted by the Pentagon agencies against Iran and those which they might mount in future against Syria?. Will he or his agencies fully share with Negroponte, a foreign service officer, knowledge of such covert actions? Very unlikely.

Ultimately, Negroponte might end up supervising all operations for the collection and dissemination of intelligence, with very little control over covert actions of a para-military nature over which Rumsfeld would continue to be the Czar.

The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-mail:[email protected]

Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 1257, February 18, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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