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The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States’ proposal to create an intelligence czar and an infrastructure to support the position is far from new, having circulated inside the Beltway for many years. In fact, it may be that no change in the law is required to implement the recommendation, and so it may be done quickly. But let’s not rush to judgment here. Shouldn’t such a major change be handled carefully, and with full bipartisan support? Unfortunately, the Bush administration, fueled by the commission’s report, seems ready to take a “fire, ready, aim” approach that risks generating an appearance of political posturing — something to be avoided at all costs if an intelligence czar and a new overarching intelligence structure is to work effectively for our increased security. A better approach would be to give this remarkable report the time it needs to be understood by the administration, Congress and, most importantly, the American public. The families of the Sept. 11 victims and the report itself have helped create something that has never possible before: the political will to treat intelligence reform seriously. We should thank them by treating seriously and deliberately the work of the commission, which the families’ insistence first created and then supported. We can do so by asking our selves several fundamental questions. WHAT KIND OF INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY DO WE REALLY WANT, WHAT AGENCIES WILL BE INVOLVED AND WHAT ROLE WILL THEY HAVE? To begin, I hope no one is proposing that we combine the CIA and FBI. We organized them separately after World War II because the functions they perform are different, occur in different locations with different conditions, have a different impact on the rights of U.S. citizens and, most importantly, because we wanted to avoid the sinister Big Brother Agency synonymous with the Nazi and Soviet regimes. But we can make theses agencies work better together by employing significantly enhanced cross training and education. Even so, this ought not to involve eroding the legal wall that separates their respective approaches to collecting information — particularly where U.S. citizens are involved. In thinking about how we improve collection of intelligence, yet also protect the rights of U.S. citizens, it is useful to keep in mind the distinctions between “collection” and “analysis” of that information. Different legal authorities govern how and for what purposes law enforcement and intelligence agencies collect information. These collection limitations pay particular regard to the civil liberties of our citizens and should not be changed. The problem is rather whether information concerning terrorism, no matter its source, can be centrally analyzed and widely shared among agencies involved in our security without affecting the rights of U.S. citizens. Here, changes in collection rules are less important than ensuring that the necessary care is exercised to protect individual legal rights — particularly the right to privacy — of U.S. citizens, in the handling of such information during analysis and subsequent distribution for use. This need for greater analysis and more effective use of information is particularly challenging as we consider the type of intelligence capability we will need in the future. We know from Sept. 11 that our national security strategy now needs the effective participation of many traditional domestic agencies, that information must therefore be shared — and understood — much more broadly. My own decade of experience in intelligence taught me how difficult achieving such coordination was between law enforcement and intelligence. Now, a decade later, we face the far larger challenge of deciding how to integrate other domestic agencies into our domestic security structure, yet always with appropriate regard for the rights of our citizens. We also need to be mindful of the nature of “intelligence.” Intelligence information is not the information with which traditional domestic agencies are familiar. It is not straightforward, but more often equivocal. It seldom presents clear-cut facts. It differs greatly from the evidence that might be introduced in a courtroom. It is composed of half-truths, innuendo, hearsay and interpretation. Many intelligence analysts would say that only a professional analyst ought to interpret such information. Handling intelligence is never easy and becomes more difficult the larger the number of new agencies that become involved. WHAT INFORMATION WILL THIS NEW INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY NEED TO COLLECT? This, of course, is the most significant question underlying our need to reorganize intelligence: What threats are we confronting today? After all, the vast bureaucratic structure that our intelligence community has become was created over time, almost exclusively in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Many of the assumptions of that period are no longer valid or, at a minimum, require re-examination. Countless examples of these changes exist. Today, individuals armed with weapons of mass destruction are every bit as lethal as nation states once were — and, as we know now, these individual actors are far less predictable and much more nimble. Also, the relationship and relative importance of so-called “open source,” or publicly available, information to secret information is far different today than it was in the late 1940s when news coverage did not exist in much of the world. How effective are we in handling and analyzing this “open” information? Understanding the nature of the threat we face will be key to how we organize our intelligence services, but it may also assist us in reducing the threat over time. One important contribution of the Sept. 11 Commission report is its discussion of the cultural issues and historical developments that led to our lack of preparedness for an event such as Sept. 11: our failure to “imagine” that such a dramatic shift in the nature of terrorism — like flying jumbo jets into symbolic buildings — might be a possibility. A second, equally important contribution is the report’s discussion about how to counter the extremist factions of radical Islam. Together, these two recommendations should do much to begin the process of understanding what we are confronting. If we do not understand the threat, we will not be able to design effective positions, policies or institutions in response. Nor will we collect effective information. WHO SHOULD BE PUT IN CHARGE? Turning to the position of czar itself, we must remember that the new position is only a means to identifying and effectuating needed changes. It is not an end in and of itself. Nor will it be automatically effective in producing a better intelligence system and greater security for our nation unless attention is paid to how it is created — and who is selected to serve. Most importantly, to be a success, politicization of the position must be avoided. Achieving this objective will require careful thought, but the right structure can help. One idea might be to model the new czar along the lines of other governmental structures that do seem to work well, such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Federal Reserve. Both are led by professionals, selected with congressional participation. In the end, however, the czar will be only as effective as he or she is independent. After all, one of the most important duties of such an intelligence czar will be to ensure that the president, as final decision maker, receives an independent assessment of the facts and is aware of differing interpretations and positions — something that appears too seldom to have happened since Sept. 11. HOW SHOULD WE THINK? Finally, as the choice and structure of an intelligence czar and support systems is considered, one thought to keep in mind is how we can better encourage our intelligence agencies to “think out of the box” –something the Sept. 11 Commission report appropriately encourages. There are no easy answers, but two solutions seem worth considering. First, there is a need for far greater “cross pollination,” so that those in one agency are exposed to their counterparts working in other settings. The military confronted this problem some years ago when the service rivalries threatened its effectiveness; their solution was to reward those who served collegially in “joint billets.” A second suggestion would be to encourage much more involvement from our academic community to think about the world we confront. We have not invested enough in learning about the sources, and solution, to the extremist form of Islam we confront. Encouraging research and study in our universities — and then exposing our intelligence community and others to such thinking — might be a useful contribution. We should not be limited to one point of view if we want to avoid “group think.” Why not consider creating a parallel initiative to what occurred during the Cold War, when so many Sovietologists were created with federal support? The Sept. 11 families and the Sept. 11 Commission have achieved what no one else to date has: the will to change. Hopefully that change will be developed and implemented in a way that is responsible and will stand the test of history. Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker is the dean of McGeorge School of Law at University of the Pacific. She has served as general counsel of the National Security Agency (1984-89), as a principal deputy legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State (1989-1990) and as general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency (1990-95).)

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