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One thing the new agency will not do is fix the central problem exposed by 9/11's missed warnings: the fragmented, territorial, risk-averse culture of the agencies that collect and analyze intelligence. The new Department of Homeland Security would have an in-house intelligence-analysis group, but the information it receives would be only as good as what the CIA, the FBI and the supersecret National Security Agency (NSA) decide is safe or useful to give it. That means Homeland Security analysts will not get full access to raw intelligence data. Had the new department been around last year, its analysts would not have seen the memo from Phoenix, Ariz., FBI agent Kenneth Williams, who warned last July that terrorists might be enrolling in flight schools. They would not have heard about the FBI's in-house argument over whether to search the computer of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, a disagreement that became national news thanks to FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley, who testified last week on Capitol Hill. Instead, intelligence officials suggest, the information the Homeland Security analysts get is likely to be a partial version of what is already being analyzed by the CIA's 1,000-person Counter-Terrorism Center. "The problem is not just analysis," complains Vincent Cannistraro, the center's former chief of operations. "It's collecting the right information. This [proposal] leaves the two main agencies responsible for collecting intelligence still with divided authorities and a clash of culture."
For all the sweep of Bush's plan, it falls well short of the fundamental intelligence reforms that might have changed the culture of the intelligence community--and certainly would have ignited bureaucratic warfare among the national-security fiefs. Though the threat has changed, with cold war states replaced by transnational terrorists, the intelligence community has not. To help remedy that, George H.W. Bush's National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft, recommended last fall that some of the country's best-funded intelligence agencies, including the NSA and the imagery producers at the National Reconnaissance Office, be wrested from the Pentagon and brought under the control of the CIA. That proposal has languished--largely because of the friction it would create between CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a supremely powerful bureaucratic player who shows no sign of wanting to part with any of his chess pieces.
Nor would Bush's new department be a model of streamlined efficiency. Swept into it would be many agencies whose jobs have little to do with what the President described as its "overriding and urgent mission." The Federal Emergency Management Authority would still have to clean up after tornadoes and floods; the Coast Guard would still be in charge of search-and-rescue operations. And fighting terrorism would be just one of the jobs at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, whose other duties include the eradication of the screwworm, the boll weevil and the golden nematode, as well as the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. "There's a spectacular lack of focus in this agency," complains Congressman David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. "It's going to need a lot of work if it's going to work."