Former CIA chief blasts intelligence reform plan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former CIA Director George Tenet on Monday blasted plans outlined by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, for a massive reorganization of U.S. intelligence agencies as a step toward driving "the security of the American people off a cliff."
The plan would merge the CIA with agencies now under the Pentagon and other departments.
"This proposal reflects a dangerous misunderstanding of the business of intelligence," Tenet said in a written statement. "It would undermine years of effort to integrate disciplines -- hard-won steps that have led to some of the most significant intelligence successes in our history.
"The proposal runs totally counter to the concept of the collaboration among disciplines -- a concept that has proven so effective against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups since 9/11," Tenet said.
The committee's vice chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, also railed against the proposal, saying in a written statement that it "departs significantly from the 9/11 commission's blueprint for reform."
Tenet said the lack of terrorist attacks inside the United States since September 11, 2001, and the fact that al Qaeda "has been so badly damaged as an organization" are both "the direct result of human and technical intelligence working hand-in-hand with analysts both at home and abroad," a collaboration "inside the CIA that the Roberts proposal would destroy."
He said, "A proposal such as this would damage U.S. national security rather than improve it. It would result in the demoralization of a proud and extremely capable agency and less security for the American people." The need to deal with "ill-conceived schemes like this" could divert the U.S. intelligence community from putting its focus on "pre-election terrorist threats," he said.
Roberts' proposal, Tenet said, "is yet another episode in the mad rush to rearrange wiring diagrams in an attempt to be seen as doing something. It is time for someone to say, 'stop!' Someone needs to stand up for all the good that is done by the men and women of CIA. It is time for someone to slam the brakes on before the politics of the moment drives the security of the American people off a cliff."
Roberts introduced his plan Sunday, telling CBS' "Face the Nation" the plan provides the framework for one of the 9/11 Commission's key recommendations -- an all-powerful intelligence chief who provides the link between intelligence agencies and the administration.
"What we have proposed is a national intelligence service with a national intelligence director that has real line-item budget authority and personnel authority, so we think its a good plan," he said.
The plan -- which he dubbed the "9/11 National Security Protection Act" -- would put the spies and intelligence analysts of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency under a new director's authority, along with the National Security Agency's electronic eavesdropping capability and intelligence units in the departments of Homeland Security, State, Energy and Treasury.
Roberts had previously announced his committee would back a strong intelligence director. He said he was taking action because he is concerned the administration might "not go far enough with regards to the 9/11 commission" and because he was concerned about the political ramifications of delaying action.
Rockefeller released a statement saying he would consider the bill when Roberts presents it. But at this point, he wrote, "My reaction is that disbanding and scattering the Central Intelligence Agency at such a crucial time would be a severe mistake."
He also complained that Roberts "did not afford me or any Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee an opportunity to work with him in drafting the proposal."
Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Ross dismissed Rockefeller's complaint that he wasn't told about the chairman's bill in advance. She said the two senators talk almost daily and that Roberts told Rockefeller of the "efforts and details" of his bill in the past week. She also said the Democratic staff on the intelligence committee "had ample access to the bill."
Rockefeller "chose not to act, so Roberts did," Ross said.
On Sunday, Roberts said he hoped to forge a bipartisan consensus.
Intelligence officials complained Monday that CIA leadership was not consulted on the plan.
One intelligence official, who declined to be identified, said the Roberts proposal "far from eliminating stove pipes, would create more of them." Roberts said Sunday the White House was not consulted on his proposal.
Before Tenet issued his statement, other intelligence officials, speaking to CNN, called the proposal "reckless" and said it would cause "irreparable damage to U.S. national security."
One senior U.S. intelligence official said, "It would be akin to taking apart a ship in the middle of the ocean" and would "demolish the CIA at a critical time."
--National Security Correspondent David Ensor and CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.