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FBI slammed for fighting 9/11 reforms

Bureau disputes panel's findings, citing improvements

From Pam Benson and Kevin Bohn
CNN

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former members of the 9/11 commission slammed the FBI on Thursday for the pace of its reforms, saying the agency has fought the changes more than expected and warning that "terrorists will not wait."

The criticism came in a report by the former commission, now called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, released Thursday in Washington.

"Reforms are at risk from inertia and complacency," said former commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton.

If the pace of reform is "not accelerated," he said, Congress will have to consider "other alternatives," a veiled reference to removing the FBI's intelligence function.

The report faulted the FBI for continued deficiencies in its analytical capabilities and information sharing with other agencies, as well as its failure to improve information technology. The bureau was also cited for too much turnover in its workforce.

Former commission Chairman Thomas Kean complimented FBI Director Robert Mueller for setting the right priorities, but said there was "much more resistance than anticipated" from the rest of the bureau.

The FBI has been criticized for having a culture entrenched in law enforcement, one not geared to carry out intelligence missions.

The bipartisan 9/11 panel -- formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- was created by Congress in 2002 to investigate aspects of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

It released its final report in a nearly 570-page book in July 2004. (Full story)

The panel disbanded as a government entity the following month, but the 10 members formed the Public Discourse Project with the aim of fulfilling their original mandate of protecting against future terrorist attacks.

Thursday's report card listed 14 of the panel's recommendations for the FBI and other parts of the federal government, grading progress on eight of them as minimal, insufficient or unsatisfactory.

President Bush signed legislation in December that overhauled the U.S. intelligence community based on the 9/11 commission's recommendations, including the creation of a director of national intelligence post that was filled by John D. Negroponte.

Last week, Negroponte announced the creation of a National Clandestine Service headed by an undercover CIA official, based on the recommendations of the White House's so-called WMD commission, a separate panel that investigated intelligence failures regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war. (Full story)

Bush endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations made by the WMD commission, including the creation in June of a National Security Service within the FBI. (Full story)

FBI cites 'remarkable progress'

The FBI strongly disputed some of the findings of the 9/11 panel's report, saying the bureau has improved substantially its intelligence capabilities and information sharing.

FBI Assistant Director John Miller said the former commissioners "avoided information on the remarkable progress that is available."

Miller pointed to reforms in career training of intelligence analysts, a new national security bureau encompassing all counterterrorism, counterintelligence and intelligence analysis, and placing intelligence staff in all 56 FBI field offices.

The report credited CIA Director Porter Goss with establishing appropriate priorities to improve the agency's analysis and its human intelligence capabilities.

But the commissioners were concerned about the high turnover in senior management at the CIA and reports of low morale, said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana.

The commissioners said they did not feel they were in a position to judge the internal personnel situation at the CIA, but called on the congressional oversight committees to address those issues.

The former 9/11 commissioners called on Negroponte to act with a sense of urgency.

"The DNI must be forceful in setting policy and direction for the intelligence community," said Kean, a former Republican New Jersey governor. "He must be an agent for change."

But Kean said Negroponte could not do it alone, noting Bush "has to give him strong and consistent support if this reform is to succeed."

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