Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Chuck Hagel gets one right

Now that John Kerry is demagoguing the 9-11 Commission report and the Bush campaign is starting to cave to the 10 dopes' recommendations, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska says NOT SO FAST.

Here is an excerpt:

. . . if we allow the current national consensus for intelligence reform to become a tool in the partisan rancor of presidential politics, we risk doing enormous damage to our intelligence community. We must not allow false urgency dictated by the political calendar to overtake the need for serious reform.

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A mistaken impression has developed that since Sept. 11, 2001, little has been done to improve our intelligence capabilities. This is not true. We are unquestionably a safer nation today than we were three years ago. The legislative and executive branches of government have been reviewing and adjusting our intelligence -- the gathering, processing and management of it -- since Sept. 11 . . . Last month, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which I serve, issued the first part of our report on intelligence failures prior to the war in Iraq. We have begun the second phase of our report, which will include recommendations on reform of our intelligence community.

And despite the impressions you may have from the press, it's not just the 9-11 Commission that has studied (or is studying) the US intelligence community and ways to improve it. As Sen. Hagel notes:

In 2001 the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, chaired by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, provided the president with a comprehensive review of the intelligence community and recommendations.

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This year President Bush designated a bipartisan panel to examine U.S. intelligence capabilities. The commission, led by former senator and governor Chuck Robb of Virginia and federal appellate judge Laurence Silberman, has been given a broad mandate to "assess whether the Intelligence Community is sufficiently authorized, organized, equipped, trained and resourced to . . . support United States Government efforts to respond to . . . the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, related means of delivery, and other related threats of the 21st Century." They are to report their findings to the president by March 31.

In addition to the intelligence committees, Senate and House committees are studying reform of our intelligence community. Some will hold hearings during the August congressional recess. The work of intelligence reform cuts a wide swath across our government. All these hearings in committees of jurisdiction are critical for any reforms to succeed.

Furthermore, as James Joyner notes,

The 9/11 Commission was a panel consisting almost entirely of people with no expertise in intelligence gathering or analysis . . . [I]t is the job of presidents and legislators to make judgments on such weighty matters for themselves. Blue ribbon panels are sometimes useful for defusing a political hot potato. They must not become mini governments . . .

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