New U.S. spy service created
National Clandestine Service to coordinate all human intelligence
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Acting on a recommendation from the commission that investigated intelligence failures before the Iraq war, the government announced Thursday the creation of the National Clandestine Service headed by an undercover CIA official.
The new entity will oversee human intelligence operations conducted by the 15 U.S. agencies involved in spying, including the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency, a branch of the Pentagon.
"This is another positive step in building an intelligence community that is more unified, coordinated and effective, and is better positioned to meet the increasingly complex intelligence challenges of the future," said John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence.
"The NCS will serve as the national authority for the integration, coordination, de-confliction and evaluation of human intelligence operations across the entire intelligence community," Negroponte said in a news release.
President Bush approved the plan, according to the CIA's Web site.
The head of the NCS -- his name is secret -- will set the government-wide standards for spy tradecraft and training, including how to check out the reliability of a potential foreign agent.
He will report to CIA Director Porter Goss, who will manage U.S. intelligence gathering operations, Negroponte said.
The creation of the NCS was one of 74 recommendations by the Silberman-Robb commission. The panel, appointed by President Bush in February 2004, issued a scathing 618-page report on intelligence failures and shortcomings 13 months later.
The report called for a complete transformation of the intelligence community, which it described as "fragmented, loosely managed and poorly coordinated."
In all, Bush endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations made by the panel, formally known as the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Thursday's moves will likely help restore the CIA's profile, battered after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Goss and the CIA lost some power and prestige when Negroponte -- who had been U.S. ambassador to Iraq and before that ambassador to the United Nations -- took office in May as national intelligence director, overseeing the budgets of the 15 spy agencies.
The post was created by the intelligence overhaul bill Bush signed into law in December that sought to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission on the September 11 attacks. (Intelligence czar named)
The Defense Department and FBI also have been moving aggressively into the spying field in recent years, causing friction with the CIA.
"We won't tell the FBI how to do their business," a senior intelligence official said, "but the goal is to have common standards."
Senior intelligence officials who briefed reporters Thursday also said they hope the new structure will improve communication among spy agencies.
The officials said the president would be the final voice should major disagreements arise between agencies.
The officials said there was never any question of giving overall responsibility for human intelligence gathering to any other agency since, as one put it, "the gold standard for clandestine operations is the CIA."
A senior intelligence official said the goal is to "standardize tactics, techniques, training and procedures" throughout the intelligence community at a time when the latest Bush administration budget calls for a 50 percent increase in human intelligence staffing at the CIA and some other agencies.
In recent weeks information from a source in Iraq collected by the Defense Intelligence Agency caused New York City to go on alert against terrorism in its subway system.
At the time, other intelligence officials expressed skepticism about the quality of the intelligence, and it has subsequently been described by U.S. officials as a "hoax."
Senior officials avoided comment on whether the changes will make such an outcome less likely, but said common standards about how to judge the credibility of an intelligence source should help overall.
In June, Bush created the National Security Service within the FBI that specializes in intelligence and other national security matters and combines assets of the Justice Department's counterterrorism, intelligence and espionage units.
The Silberman-Robb commission also recommended forming the service.
CNN's David Ensor contributed to this report.
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