John Negroponte, the nation's director for national intelligence said that the United States is safer now (December 2005) due in part to a well-defined reporting structure within the intelligence community and integrated intelligence duties between the military, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI,) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA.)
Unlike the intelligence community set-up during President George W Bush's first term, where Homeland Security reported directly to the president, Negroponte as director of National Intelligence reports to President Bush, and the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security report into Negroponte. Although Negroponte did not replace former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, the president restructured the intelligence community going into his second term and made Homeland Security on equal footing as the FBI and CIA.
Two new intelligence departments were also partly responsible for the federal safety outlook: The National Clandestine Service of the CIA, and National Security Branch of FBI.
Negroponte, 66, took the role of director in early 2005, and says he's led the effort to reform measures after Congress and the president granted him the right to do so. As part of his daily duties, Negroponte informs President George W Bush twice each day on intelligence efforts underway.
From an intelligence point of view, he said the United States is much safer than it was before 11 September 2001, and that he "believes our intelligence effort is better integrated today than it was previously. I think we are doing a good job at bringing together foreign, domestic and military intelligence."
The news is bound to impress White House critics, because for three years following 9-11 former Homeland Security director Ridge, and now his replacement Michael Chertoff, have yet to remark on the safety of the United States, although more than 14 months have passes since the last Homeland Security code Orange/Yellow alert.
Following the threat to New York's subway system in October, Negroponte pointed to that example as proof the system is working, although he said the information was of "questionable reliability." He said it was the intelligence community's role to inform local authorities, but it was not his responsibility to tell local authorities how to handle threats or what to do with information of potential threats. The steps taken in New York he said were not worthy of praise, but were not unreasonable either.
Negroponte however is not without some criticism even with his good news. Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, nonetheless offered no praise for the intelligence service and complained that Negroponte's intelligence community is lacking "speed, intensity, urgency and accountability."
The now defunct 9-11 Commission set up to investigate the terrorist attacks contends the White House is moving too slow on measures of protection.
Former commissioners from the congressional appointed panel contend that nuclear proliferation, lack of emergency response capabilities, and a history of turf battles between the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security have resulted in nothing more than greater bureaucracy not safety.
Top commissioner Timothy Roemer said al Qaeda has spread out "like mercury on a mirror while our bureaucracies are still sometimes stuck in Cold War mentality and cultures." He said the White House is taking baby-steps to secure the nation when the commission recommended giant leaps of reform.
Roemer and others from the commission set up a new independent panel out of concern for the lack of response from the White House to the commission's report in July 2004, and said President Bush and his administration have failed on more than a dozen key strategic areas. Roemer disagrees with Negroponte and said the intelligence community fails to share important information on al Qaeda due to departmental in-fighting.
Thomas Kean, former commission chairman, said he gives the White House a "poor grade" and said President Bush has "not performed very well." Kean added that while capturing Osama bin Laden was said to be high on the list of priorities, the White House allows bin Laden to remain at large more than five years after the attacks on the United States.
Intelligence services are not doing enough to ensure that other nations are upgrading their own security measures to stop proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical materials, Kean said. Local police, firefighters, medics and other responders still lack interconnected communication systems. The former chairman said the White House has given more funds to low-risk communities to buy popularity votes, while leaving higher risk cities to fend for themselves.
The wilds of Wyoming still recieve more federal anti-terrorism funds than New York City the former commissioners said, which shows the "White House has no more prioritized safety today than they had before 9-11."
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