Bush creates National Security Service
Recommended by WMD panel, agency will operate within FBI
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday directed the creation of a new National Security Service within the FBI, one of 70 recommendations on improving the intelligence community he endorsed from the White House WMD commission.
The new service will specialize in intelligence and other national security matters and follow the priorities laid out by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.
The service will operate within the FBI and combine the disparate assets of the Justice Department's counterterrorism, intelligence and espionage units. The changes consolidate Negroponte's power.
Bush's homeland security adviser Fran Townsend said the president's actions mark a "win for the American people."
"A stronger, more vibrant intelligence community produces better intelligence products upon which good decisions can be made," she told reporters at a White House briefing. "The steps we are taking to strengthen the intelligence community help us to prevent terror attacks."
The new steps include:
• Establishing a National Counter Proliferation Center, with a director who will make sure the government tracks the worldwide proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
• Giving control of all overseas human intelligence operations to the CIA.
• Seeking congressional support for the creation of a new assistant attorney general position that will "centralize responsibility for intelligence and national security matters at the Department of Justice in a single office," according to a White House fact sheet.
In all, Bush endorsed 70 of 74 recommendations made by the WMD commission, formally known as the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The president said three recommendations need further evaluation -- holding intelligence organizations accountable for errors; granting broader authorities for counterintelligence field activity; and defining the role of National Counter Proliferation Center in interdiction issues.
One classified recommendation dealing with moving covert action planning out of the CIA's hands was rejected.
"There were persuasive and strong arguments made against doing that," said Townsend.
Bush also issued an executive order Wednesday authorizing the government to freeze assets of individuals or groups involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
He specifically listed several Iranian and North Korean companies and a Syrian government agency.
FBI Director Robert Mueller called the WMD panel's recommendations "the next step in the development of the bureau's national security capabilities."
"The development of the National Security Service is the next step in the evolution of our ability to protect the American public."
Mueller rejected suggestions that the changes marked a reduction in FBI independence.
"I see it as a gain," Mueller told reporters. "I do not see it as a diminishment of authority."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the reforms further strengthen the "No. 1 priority of this department, including the FBI: The protection of the United States against another terrorist attack."
CIA Director Porter Goss applauded the measures, saying it "reaffirms our role as the lead for human intelligence."
The recommendations were also welcomed by Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff.
"We will actively work with our intelligence community partners and homeland security officials at the federal, state and local levels to implement the commission's recommendations," he said in a written statement.
Intelligence 'dead wrong' on Iraq WMD
In a scathing, 600-page report on the intelligence community issued in March, the WMD commission said the United States still knows "disturbingly little" about the weapons programs and the intentions of many of the nation's "most dangerous adversaries." (Full story)
The nine-member commission -- led by Republican Laurence Silberman, a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb of Virginia -- also determined the intelligence community was "dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Bush formed the commission in February 2004 and charged it "with assessing whether the intelligence community is sufficiently authorized, organized, equipped, trained, and resourced to identify and warn" about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The president will also ask Congress to support two other measures that would require legislation: changing congressional oversight of intelligence agencies and extending the duration of electronic surveillance in cases involving foreign agents.
The White House said the new measures would build on other changes undertaken since the attacks of September 11, 2001, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the position of director of national intelligence.
Bush earlier this year named Negroponte the first director of national intelligence, saying he would serve as the principal adviser on intelligence issues and would have authority over the budgets of the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies. (Full story)
The intelligence overhaul bill that Bush signed into law last December created the intelligence czar position.
The legislation sought to implement the recommendations of another commission -- led by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton -- that investigated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
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