Reforming Intelligence: A Forgotten Report

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Has the White House been sitting on a credible proposal for serious intelligence reform for more than two years? Knowledgeable government sources say that a classified March 2002 report from GOP foreign policy eminence Brent Scowcroft, produced for President Bush, proposed reforms similar to key recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Among them: making the current position of Director of Central Intelligence into the national intelligence czar, with authority over a separate CIA director and all or most of the $40 billion annual intelligence budget. One government source said the document contains little sensitive national security information and that its secret status is largely cover for the White House to avoid releasing a potentially embarrassing report.

But pressure is now building on the President to make Scowcroft’s report public, or at least show it to lawmakers considering major intelligence reforms in the wake of the hard-hitting 9/11 commission report. At a hearing last week, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts said he had recently “begged [Scowcroft] on hands and knees to release the report” to the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services panels. Roberts indicated that Scowcroft, who chairs the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, said that decision was up to Bush. Roberts hopes to call Scowcroft to appear before the committee, at least in closed session, an official said. Also during last week’s Senate hearings on intelligence reform, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — who had strenuously opposed Scowcroft’s recommendations, which would strip key intelligence agencies and their multi-billion dollar budgets out of the Pentagon — acknowledged when pressed by Senator Edward Kennedy that he’d been briefed on the Scowcroft report and could think of no reason why it remains classified. The White House declined several opportunities to comment this week, and a Scowcroft aide said he was traveling and could not be reached.

Members of the 9/11 commission, which closed its doors over the weekend but will continue operating out of a privately-funded foundation were not given a copy of the Scowcroft report. But they were allowed to read it under tightly controlled conditions, according to Republican Chairman Tom Kean. And they have some familiarity with the making of the document; one 9/11 commissioner and a panel staffer helped write the report. Kean declined to give details about the Scowcroft paper but told TIME he was impressed by it, saying, “I liked the Scowcroft report very much.”