WASHINGTON - President Bush, embracing nearly all the recommendations of a White House commission, said Wednesday he was creating a national security service at the FBI to specialize in intelligence as part of a shake-up of the disparate U.S. spy agencies.
Those changes include directing the Justice Department to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage and intelligence units. Bush also will ask Congress to create an assistant attorney general position to help centralize those operations. Bush wrote in a memo to intelligence agency leaders that "further prompt action is necessary" at the Justice Department and FBI to address security challenges.
_forming a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate the U.S. government's collection and analysis of intelligence on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The task is now performed by many national security agencies.
_asking Congress to reform its oversight of intelligence agencies.
_putting CIA Director Porter Goss in charge of all overseas human intelligence, or traditional spy work, done by government operatives.
_proposing legislation that would extend the duration of electronic surveillance in cases involving foreign agents.
_put in place new procedures for dissenting intelligence analysis to be allowed to reach senior officials.
_giving the intelligence director a staff of "mission managers" who will develop strategies for specific intelligence areas. As an example, the commission said the director could have a mission manager focused on a specific country, such as China.
At last, some substantive reforms, proposed and vetted by people who actually know what they're doing -- not something cooked up by that misbegotten political circus they called the 9/11 commission.
In the hysteria that followed 9/11 many ill-considered changes were proposed and adopted willy nilly. We are now in a position to intelligently evaluate proposals and implement those that make sense.