Intel reforms fall flat

Sweeping reforms to the nation’s intelligence system after the 9/11 attacks have done little to improve information-sharing or generate a greater sense of urgency among U.S. intelligence agencies, a House report concluded Thursday.

The report by the House Select Intelligence Committee also gave National Intelligence Director John Negroponte a tepid review after 15 months on the job, noting he “is trying to do a little of everything, which slows down improvements in key areas.”

In their 41-page review of how the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies have adjusted since Congress overhauled the system in December 2004, lawmakers found a “mixed story.”

“Some good, needed steps have been taken, while other reforms have lagged,” the report found. “Some believe that the new structure is too cumbersome and bureaucratic; others believe that the director of national intelligence is not showing the leadership and degree of change for which they hoped.”

Responding, Negroponte’s office said it has “acted with urgency and focus” in retooling the intelligence community that was widely criticized in report after report for failures leading up to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Separately, Negroponte issued his own 9-page report detailing steps his office has taken in its first year to better collect, analyze and share information, and otherwise strengthen the intelligence system.

The intelligence community “has made critical improvements to the security of the United States of America,” Negroponte’s report concluded, adding that the agencies have “met considerable success” and have “clear plans for moving forward.”

The House report credited intelligence agencies with better communication through videoconference calls. It found that intelligence reports to the president and Congress were improved with the inclusion of information from secondary intelligence agencies.

But it noted that information sharing among the agencies remains a top concern, citing an interview with a National Counterterror Center official who said that his office was analyzing much of the same intelligence as the CIA and Pentagon. And it called the amount of time taken to establish a civil liberties oversight board “disappointing at best.”

The report also rapped Negroponte’s leadership ability, saying he needs to develop performance plans with the leaders of the disparate intelligence agencies and be more responsive to Congress.

Above all, the report concluded, Negroponte must “create an environment in which agencies complement each other rather than compete against each other.”

That “is no easy task,” the report conceded.

Negroponte’s office said the House review “acknowledges the complexity and importance of the task before us.”

“Similarly, we recognize that change does not come easily to large enterprises and that we must continue to aggressively work to fulfill the mandate of the intelligence reform legislation,” Negroponte’s office said in a statement.


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