Bush vows unified approach in Homeland Security agency


WASHINGTON, Reuters

With pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures an issue, President George W. Bush vowed on Saturday his proposed Department of Homeland Security would create a “single daily picture” of threats against the United States.

The United States currently relies on intelligence from the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency and various other agencies to determine if there is a threat of attack, but those organizations do not always share information with each other.

A dramatic example was the FBI’s failure to connect a July memo by an agent in Phoenix concerned about Middle Eastern men possibly connected to Osama bin Laden taking flight lessons in the United States to the August arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in Minnesota, who authorities now suspect had intended to be a hijacker.

The new Department of Homeland Security, if approved by Congress, would include an intelligence clearinghouse that would analyze data from all agencies.

“This new department will review intelligence and law enforcement information from all agencies of government, and produce a single daily picture of threats against our homeland,” Bush said.

“Analysts will be responsible for imagining the worst, and planning to counter it.”

Bush proposed the new department as his administration has struggled to explain intelligence lapses before the Sept. 11 attacks, putting the president on the defensive and knocking him off stride after getting credit for months of sure-footed leadership.

Congressional hearings on the lapses are under way. Please see BUSH on page

FBI whistle blower Coleen Rowley told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that layers of bureaucracy and an attitude of careerism were hurting the FBI.

The Minnesota-based agent stunned the FBI last month with a 13-page letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller questioning his handling of information and accusing FBI headquarters of hampering field agents from fully investigating Moussaoui.

Bush defended Mueller in comments to reporters on Friday, saying the FBI leader had started his job only one week before Sept. 11.

“He’d been one week on duty. And he has taken the testimony of the lady, the FBI woman out of Minneapolis, very seriously. He’s looked at the report from Arizona. And he’s reacted with reform,” Bush said.

In his radio address, Bush said the government had learned a great deal since the hijack attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“And we must act on every lesson,” he said.