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Archive for Monday, July 19, 2004

CIA chief opposes Cabinet-level position

July 19, 2004

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— The CIA's acting director said Sunday that a new national intelligence chief, as the Sept. 11 commission is expected to recommend this week, is unnecessary and that intelligence agencies have made changes since the 2001 attacks to better protect the country.

John McLaughlin said "a good argument can be made" for a Cabinet-level position to oversee the nation's 15 intelligence agencies and control their budgets.

But, he added, "It doesn't relate particularly to the world I live in. I see the director of Central Intelligence as someone who is able to do that and is empowered to do so under the National Security Act of 1947."

McLaughlin, who took over at the CIA when Director George Tenet left on July 11, also said the agency has disrupted a number of al-Qaida plots to mount attacks in the United States.

"It's important to remember here that for these people, an attack in the United States is the brass ring," he told "Fox News Sunday."

The new post would represent the most drastic step in structuring the intelligence agencies since the CIA was created after World War II.

"With some modest changes in the way the CIA is set up, the director of Central Intelligence could carry out that function well and appropriately," McLaughlin said.

The CIA director now has loose authority over those agencies. But the commission in a preliminary report found that the director did not hold enough power because the Pentagon controls more than 80 percent of the nation's intelligence budget. As a result, CIA requests to other agencies are often ignored.

The commission's final report, expected to be released Thursday, will highlight intelligence failures by the CIA and the FBI that enabled the Sept. 11 attacks to occur.

But McLaughlin was quick to point out that intelligence agencies have improved intelligence-gathering since the attacks. Potential attacks that have been disrupted since then were in the early stages of planning, he said.

While al-Qaida has been weakened, he said, the threat to Americans remains. "We can be successful 1,000 times and these people have to be lucky only once," McLaughlin said.

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