Washington President Bush granted the new national intelligence chief expanded power over the FBI on Wednesday and ordered dozens of other spy agency changes as the White House heeded a presidential commission that condemned the intelligence community for failures in Iraq and elsewhere.
But almost as soon as the details were unveiled, the White House was defending itself against suggestions that the moves were simply adding more bureaucracy without making changes that could have prevented misjudgments like those made on Iraq.
"It's an unfair characterization to say it's simply a restructuring," said Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, who led the 90-day review of the recommendations from the president's commission on weapons of mass destruction. "It's a fundamental strengthening of our intelligence capabilities."
The White House said it endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations from the commission, which was led by Republican Judge Laurence Silberman and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb, and conducted a yearlong review of the 15 intelligence agencies. Bush formed the commission under pressure after the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq resigned and started a firestorm of controversy over the accuracy of the prewar Iraq intelligence.
In its scathing 600-page report released in March, the commission called the spy community "dead wrong on almost all of its prewar judgments" about Iraq's weapons.
Among the most significant changes the White House offered Wednesday, the Justice Department will be asked - with congressional approval - to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage and intelligence units under one new assistant attorney general for national security.
The White House also directed the creation of a National Security Service inside the FBI. Bush also sought to strengthen the hand of the new national intelligence director over the FBI, under a directive that gives him expanded budget and management powers over the bureau.
The White House will also ask the national intelligence director, John Negroponte, to establish a National Counter Proliferation Center that will coordinate the U.S. government's collection and analysis of intelligence on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons - a task now performed by many national security agencies.
In other moves, the White House:
¢ Issued an executive order allowing the freezing of any financial assets in the United States of people, companies or organizations involved in the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The order designates eight organizations in Iran, North Korea and Syria.
¢ Created a new national coordinator for human intelligence, or classic spycraft, who would guide clandestine activities of the entire intelligence community.
¢ Asked Congress to reform its oversight of the intelligence community, a controversial proposal that could provoke turf wars on Capitol Hill.