Skip to main content /POLITICS

FBI briefed on Bush's homeland security proposal

From Kelli Arena and Jeanne Meserve
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The announcement expected Thursday night from President Bush regarding a reorganized office of homeland security does not come as a surprise to many officials within the FBI and intelligence communities, nor among non-government analysts. But a state homeland security official doubts Congress will go along.

FBI officials Thursday told CNN the agency was fully briefed about the president's intentions before word began to come out. One senior FBI official said that since September 11 "it has become clear that there are so many different agencies involved in intelligence gathering in one way or another that there is a need to have it gathered in one place."

This source was positive about the concept of a free-standing department, saying "it sounds right that it would not be the CIA or FBI, but an outside agency" coordinating a broad range of domestic security efforts.

Some officials within the intelligence community expressed curiosity about how such an agency would work. One summed it up as good in theory, perhaps difficult in practice. Another suggested the challenge would be to change the long-established culture among intelligence philosophies.

Intelligence experts outside the government said the change is common sense. One analyst told CNN Homeland Security Office Director Tom Ridge's job "looked, felt and smelled like a Cabinet position, so finally the Bush administration has decided to call it what it is," at a time Congress has been pushing for oversight of such an agency with broad law enforcement functioning.

But a state homeland security official doubted that lawmakers will approve the Bush proposal. This official Thursday told CNN it "sounds great but it's dead on arrival on Capitol Hill. ... They will never go for this."

Expressing skepticism that lawmakers would be willing to forgo what he called "committee stovepiping that lets them barrel-out pork" to their districts, this official called the White House proposal a clever maneuver to divert attention from the hearings into intelligence failures surrounding September 11.




Back to the top