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Bush Backs Creating U.S. Antiterrorism Chief

The United States is planning to undertake new measures to fight the Al-Qaeda network and its allies.

Washington, 2 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has endorsed creating the position of a national intelligence director to oversea the United States' domestic- and foreign-intelligence operations in combating terrorism.

Bush, speaking at the White House today, said the new intelligence chief would be appointed by the president and subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

"The national intelligence director will serve as the president's principal intelligence adviser and will oversee and coordinate the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community," Bush said.

The president said the reorganization of U.S. intelligence services is aimed at creating a better integrated, thoroughly united, and more efficient antiterrorism operation.

The new post was among the recommendations of the official commission that investigated lapses in intelligence that left the United States vulnerable to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
"The best way to protect the American homeland is to stay on the offense." -- Bush

"Oversight of intelligence and of...homeland security must be restructured and made more effective," Bush said. "There are too many committees with overlapping jurisdiction, which wastes time and makes it difficult for meaningful oversight and reform."

Bush also adopted another key recommendation of the 9-11 commission -- that of creating a National Counterterrorism Center.

"This new center will build on the analytical work -- the really good analytical work -- of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and will become our government's knowledge bank for information about known and suspected terrorists," Bush said. "The new center will coordinate and monitor counterterrorism plans and activities of all government agencies and departments."

Leaders of the bipartisan 9-11 commission have insisted that the center and the position of national-intelligence director be placed in the executive office of the president. But Bush said he wants them to be set up outside the White House.

The president said the director and the center should be a "stand- alone group" to better coordinate.

Bush also dismissed critics who said the war on Iraq has detracted U.S. efforts to fight terrorism.

"The best way to protect the American homeland is to stay on the offense. It is a ridiculous notion to assert that because the United States is on the offense, more people want to hurt us," Bush said.

Under the reorganization, the Central Intelligence Agency would be managed by a separate director. The national-intelligence director would assume greater responsibility for leading and coordinating intelligence operations both inside and outside the United States.

The president's endorsement for the new post came after U.S. law enforcement authorities strengthened security at financial institutions in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Newark, New Jersey, following what the U.S. government called extraordinary specific terror threats.