Cabinet-level intelligence czar: Good idea?

One recommendation of the Report of the 9-11 Commission (PDF file at is in Section 13.2, “Unity of Effort in the Intelligence Community,” at p. 411:

Media reports say this is to be a “Cabinet-level” position. The Report says the National Intelligence Director “should be located in the Executive Office of the President,” which is not the same thing as being in the Cabinet – at least, I don’t think so. But that’s a detail. The important question is: Is it a good or a bad idea to create a new “intelligence czar” to oversee all 15 (?) federal intelligence agencies?

I thought you had one already, the National Security Advisor.

The problem with creating this position is that it politicizes the agencies, as the person responsible for overseeing them is an appointee, and incoming administrations will be able to influence the agencies through the choice of National Intelligence Director.

The idea seems sound, though. I just think that the execution will be tainted by politics and ideology.

So this would be in addition to the department of Homeland Security? Aren’t we just creating more filters and walls for our intelligence information to go through? Wouldn’t a single united intelligence agency be more functional?

It’s a good idea. Adding more government positions or agencies is a great way to get rid of bureaucracy and make government more efficient, right Department of Homeland Security?

But isn’t the Director of Central Intelligence already a presidential appointee? And are not most of the heads of our intelligence agencies appointed either by the president or by a presidentially-appointed Cabinet secretary? It’s all part of the executive branch – which is not supposed to be insulated from political pressure, like the judiciary.

A poor idea.

Why add another layer of bureaucracy?
Instead, let’s eliminate civilian Intelligence agencies, except for the FBI.
Leave Intel in the hands of the military, where it belongs. Use the Defense Intelligence Agency for what it already is: a clearinghouse for information.

Dismantle the CIA and NSA? That’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, is it not?

For all their failings, there’s still a place for these agencies. Increasing oversight of them is preferable to just tearing down the entire structure.

OK, simple Canadian here. What exactly does the national security advisor do if no review the threat projections from the various intelligence agencies?

A Forum on the Role of the National Security Advisor sponsored by Rice University. Dig in. Enjoy.

I’ll be merciful: It’s a policy coordination position, not intelligence gathering - staff, not line. Once the intel community has said what it thinks is happening at ground level, the NSA puts the big picture together and recommends to the President what to do. Naturally, the *real * decisionmaking process can vary from that more than somewhat.

The Director of Central Intelligence, aka the CIA Director, already has the responsibilities and authority the committee describes. I agree the agency and the FBI need to be fixed, not subordinated.

28 pages of Wolf Blitzer as moderator? You’re a cruel man. :wink:

One thing that’s not clear to me is whether the various intelligence agencies would be brought under a new Department of Intelligence – as the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, etc., were brought under the new Department of Homeland Security – or whether they would stay where they are now, on the organizational chart. If the latter, I see some chain-of-command problems. How can the DIA answer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Intelligence Director? How can the intelligence-gathering organs of the FBI answer to the Attorney General and the National Intelligence Director? And so on.

I think that an Intelligence Czar is a good idea…who is the current 'ENERGY CZAR"?

And by the way, what exactly IS a Czar (outside of pre-Soviet Russia, of course)? Does the title have some exact meaning, or is it just some fancy nickname to make the position sound impressive?

I first remember the term “energy czar” being used to describe William Simon when he was appointed administrator of the new Federal Energy Office in 1973. I don’t know if it goes back further. And during the Bush I Administration, William Bennett was “drug czar” (I did a cursory search and every source seems to label him “drug czar” without specifying his official title – I think it was administrator of the Office of National Drug Policy Control, which is part of the Executive Office of the President). So, as used, the term “thing czar” just means “guy-supremely-in-charge-of-the-thing,” not necessarily a Cabinet secretary.

Can’t see what is being accomplished. All the intelligence heavyweights are, in essence, creature of the Executive, that is, the President. So now we have another. OK, fine. He controls the budgets of the other enterprises. Also OK. All information is to be shared with him. And he will, presumably, share it with the other responsible bodies. Essentially, the same effect of removing barriers between agencies, with the added issue of personal discretion. Presumably, he has discretion over the sharing, because, otherwise, he is nothing more than a conduit from say, CIA to FBI.

I think the committee came up with this out of fervent desire to take action, but a paralyzing fear of partisan implications. “Nothing is wrong with the current Administration, and here’s what we have to change, immediatly.”
At any rate, this appointee will be the President in another incarnation, much like the NSA. Then, the decision as to who will be that President is the only one that matters. It does offer the Prez, whomsover he may be, a vizier to sacrifice if things go wrong. He tells the Prez what everybody else knows, after telling them, and offers his opinion as well. Then he, like everybody else, waits for the President to tell him what to think.

Beyond that, they told us what we already knew: we were stupid, we got hurt, we got smarter, but we’re still pretty likely to get hurt some more.

Late breaking news says Bush is screaming “Me, too!” at the top of his lungs, and will initiate this part of the commissions findings immediatly, if not yesterday (that is under feasibility study…).

As well, he is taking action to promote port of entry security. This is both encouraging and alarming. Encouraging that it is being done, alarming because one had thought it done already.

The Feds should first try to do a better job with what they already have. Anyhow, what good is having another cabinet member in the White House if the President only wants to see the intel that fits with his plans to invade another country? I could see it now:

Bush: I wanna invade Irack.
Intel Czar: Uh, OK.
Bush: Ya got any intelligence on Irack?
Intel Czar: Err, not really.
Bush: Well, go git me some intelligence that says Saddam is makin’ weapons.
Intel Czar: Do you want the reliable kind, or the bullshit kind?
Bush: Whatever, just git me Saddam’s butt on skewer, an’ do it pronto!
Intel Czar: I got your bullshit right here…

Who needs another Yes Man at the highest levels of the Executive Branch? How will that make us safer, or do anything at all?

No, there is no place in a Western Democracy for such institutions; they morph into Gestapos far too easily.

And let’s face it: they let us down badly when we needed them.

They lose track of the idea that they are supposed to concentrate on gathering information, & drift too far into paramilitary/covert ops. And why do we need a paramilitary, when actual servicemen do so much better?

A Military-based Intel system would at least give us the data we need to reduce combat casualties.

Update: I just heard on CNN that, although the Department of Homeland Security and the acting CIA director initially opposed the idea of a National Intelligence Director, both parties in Congress are pushing it, and Bush is warming up to the idea.

I think that a National Intelligence Director could work, but I would want them to have multi-year terms like the FBI Director or the Federal Reserve Chairman. This would make them less beholden to the current administration. Objectively analyzed intel is paramount…and anything that can make that happen is a good thing. I think someone with long-term job security would be less likely to “cook” conclusions one way or the other to please the current president.