Following the release of a Senate
report that harshly criticizes U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis, lawmakers
are shifting their focus to whether and how to make sweeping changes to the American
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts said the White House has
briefed members of Congress on the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the
United States between now and the November presidential election. He spoke
about these threats on the NBC television program, Meet the Press.
"Right now, today, we are under threat in the homeland from a possible terrorist
attack. And we know that this information is the highest it has been ever since
9/11 [September 11, 2001]," said Mr. Roberts.
The Senate committee issued a 511-page report Friday that blamed U.S. intelligence
agencies for overstating the threat of Iraq's weapons in the months leading
up to the Iraq war. Senator Roberts said, since a national intelligence report
in 2002, the main U.S. intelligence agency, the CIA, has become better about
sharing information with lawmakers. But he added that the Senate Intelligence
Committee will be examining overall ways to reform the U.S. intelligence structure
in hearings later this month.
"I also think that, with due respect to the folks that think otherwise and
the CIA, that we have a culture problem and somewhat of a self-denial, and
that has to be fixed," he added. "And that's why these reform hearings are
so terribly important, but this is an ongoing effort."
Committee vice chairman Jay Rockefeller told Fox News Sunday one topic
of discussion is whether there should be a so-called "czar," to coordinate
all U.S. intelligence information.
"There are suggestions about a czar or a modified czar, a couple of czars,
or whatever," said Mr. Rockefeller. "Let's put that aside for the moment, because
that's what we're going to have hearings on.
"We're going to be looking very deeply into exactly how do you do that," continued
Mr. Rockefeller. "Do you do that through a vertical power integration? Do you
do that through power-sharing, trying to make them share information better
than they do now?"
The resignation of George Tenet as director of the Central Intelligence Agency
went into effect Sunday. This leaves Deputy Director John McLaughlin in charge,
as acting director.
Senator Rockefeller said, although he has no personal grudge against the
acting director, he feels the White House should name a permanent CIA head
as soon as possible.
"I've long felt that an acting director, as much as I respect and like John
McLaughlin, just the fact of something called an acting director, for the next
six or seven months, during such a dangerous period for the United States,
with all these talks of attacks on the United States is not acceptable," he
Senator Roberts agreed on the urgent need for a new CIA director. Both senators
added that they know of a handful of well-respected candidates who would be
able to receive approval from both the Democratic and Republican parties.