Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 | 4:44 a.m.
August 21 - 22, 2004
One of the most important recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission was that a single individual should be in charge of the nation's intelligence gathering. President Bush also said he wanted a national intelligence director, but he wasn't willing to give that person authority over budgeting and hiring and firing -- power that the 9/11 Commission said was essential. After Bush's proposal was criticized for creating a director in name only, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice hinted that Bush would be open to giving the director genuine authority. But since then Bush hasn't clarified his stand, and it looks as if Rice's comments were a smokescreen to hide the reality that his views haven't changed at all. Indeed, just last week Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who opposes having one person in charge of the 15 different U.S. agencies that collect intelligence, urged members of Congress to go slow in adopting the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. This, of course, flies in the face of the 9/11 Commission's finding that the continued fragmentation of intelligence gathering and analysis places the nation at further risk of a terrorist attack.
The Republican leaders in Congress take their cues from the White House, and if fellow Republican George W. Bush isn't solidly behind the 9/11 Commission's recommendation on a national intelligence director, then they're not going to act quickly as the commission has urged. It's certainly not the first time Bush has failed to lead in carrying out anti-terrorism policies -- he's even been a flip-flopper. Don't forget that Bush at first opposed the creation of a Homeland Security Department, only to later embrace it once it was clear Congress would create the agency without him. And Bush initially resisted the creation of the 9/11 Commission, but agreed to go along with its formation once the relatives of the 9/11 victims turned up the heat on him to do so. Even when he has acted decisively, as in invading Iraq, we found out belatedly that the central justif ication for the pre-emptive war -- the White House's claim that Iraq had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction -- was based on false and misleading intelligence.
George W. Bush likes to portray himself as the "war president," but he hasn't shown the kind of decisive, intelligent leadership necessary to make our nation safer from terrorism.