President George W. Bush is backing the Sept. 11. commission’s recommendation to create a national intelligence director and a counterterrorism center, but not in the White House as the panel had proposed, administration officials said Monday.
Bush’s decision to embrace these two recommendations, with some changes, are the first steps the president is taking to revamp the nation’s intelligence-gathering system to help thwart terrorist attacks. The commission’s report highlighted lapses in intelligence that left America vulnerable to the 2001 attacks.
Presidential advisers finished their review of the bipartisan panel’s recommendations and Bush made his final decisions on the intelligence reforms he plans to back on Sunday. “I expect the president will once again thank the 9-11 commission for their hard work and I expect the president will discuss his support for creation of national intelligence and also talk about the action that we will be taking to establish a national counterterrorism center,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
The president will not name his pick for the national intelligence director, nor is any announcement planned to nominate a replacement for acting CIA director John McLaughlin, he said.
He said Bush also will express strong support for the commission’s recommendations on reorganizing congressional oversight. “I expect he will go beyond what the commission has recommended in some aspects as well, specifically where it concerns proliferation and the spread of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Creation of a counterterrorism center, which the commission envisions as a joint operational planning and intelligence center staffed by personnel from all the spy agencies, and a national intelligence czar were the bipartisan panel’s most overarching recommendation.