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December 8, 2004
Does Anyone Like This Intelligence Reform Bill?

The Washington Post weighs in on the compromise intelligence bill which finally passed the House yesterday and goes to the Senate today. While the Right has its own problems with the bill, it appears that the Left dislikes it at least as much:

THE RHETORIC emanating from Capitol Hill the past few days may have created the impression that, after a hard-fought battle over key provisions, Congress worked its way to a sensible plan for reorganizing the U.S. intelligence community. Sadly, that is far from the truth. The 600-page omnibus measure on its way to approval yesterday had not been read or carefully considered by the vast majority of members, including some of those most involved in its construction. ...

That shake-up, driven by an odd combination of election-year politics and the determination of the Sept. 11 commission to leave a mark, may improve the quality of intelligence information supplied to the president and other key policymakers; we have our doubts. Like the passage of the USA Patriot Act or the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, it has been mandated hastily and with scant consideration of its long-term consequences.

The Post's editorial board has many objections to this bill, including many that I don't share, but we both have the same suspicion that the so-called intelligence reform will hinder data gathering and analysis, especially the latter:

And, most important, will this massive wartime reorganization help or hinder the critical task of bolstering the CIA's operations on the ground in difficult and dangerous places such as Iraq and Iran? Will it diminish or increase the likelihood that future intelligence judgments will fall victim to "groupthink," or political influence by a presidential appointee?

Rather than actually reorganize the structure of American intelligence services, currently split into several alphabet-soup bureaucracies with all of the attendant barriers bureaucracies bring, the 9/11 Commission and this bill simply slaps a new layer of bureaucracy on top of it. Besides the NIC, a worthwhile effort, that's the reform prescribed by the Commission -- a collection of bureaucrats. That means the same barriers will exist at the operational level as do now; the only merge takes place at the management/executive level. Every piece of analysis will have at least one and probably two more levels of management through which to pass, which increases the chances that more will be lost, not less. And the man at the president's ear will have no operational control over the analysts and the data gatherers.

What kind of reform is that?

The entire bill should be dumped. I don't have a problem creating reform in steps; immigration reform can come in a separate package, as can other aspects of this bill. But the steps that we do take should move us forward, not backward, and this proposal almost guarantees that result.

UPDATE: Easily the best analysis of the machinations behind this bill appears on Power Line in a post by Deacon. It's entitled "Advantage, No One", and you should read the whole thing.

Sphere It post by Deacon.&topic=politics"> Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 8, 2004 6:33 AM

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