President Bush has ordered more sweeping changes to the United States intelligence community and gave the new national intelligence chief more power over the FBI in response to a presidential commission that spelled out various intelligence failures.
But the administration was quick to explain that these changes are meant to truly improve the government, not serve as smoke-and-mirrors fixes.
"It's an unfair characterization to say it's simply a restructuring," said Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend. "It's a fundamental strengthening of our intelligence capabilities."
The White House said it endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations from the commission, which was led by Republican Judge Laurence Silberman and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and conducted a yearlong review of the 15 intelligence agencies. Bush formed the commission under pressure after the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq resigned and started a firestorm of controversy over the accuracy of the prewar Iraq intelligence.
Among the most significant changes the White House offered Wednesday, the Justice Department will be directed — with congressional approval — to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage and intelligence units under one new assistant attorney general for national security.
The White House ordered the creation of a National Security Service inside the FBI. And Bush sought to strengthen the hand of the new national intelligence director over the FBI, giving him expanded budget and management powers over the bureau.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said the FBI's new security service would lead to an "erosion of constitutional protections against law enforcement actions."
But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, "Every law enforcement official within the FBI is going to remain under the supervision of the FBI director and, ultimately, the attorney general."