-- A presidential commission says the United States needs
an intelligence community that is integrated, imaginative,
willing to run risks, and receptive to new technologies
to thwart 21st-century unconventional threats.
The commission released a long-awaited report
March 31 that was highly critical of the U.S. intelligence
community and its failures regarding Iraq and its nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons programs.
"We conclude that the intelligence
community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments
about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This was a major
intelligence failure," the report said.
The commission said that U.S. intelligence
agencies collected precious little intelligence for the
analysts to analyze, and much of what was collected was
either worthless or misleading.
The report did note that the same failures
were not repeated elsewhere, citing successes in getting
Libya to renounce its program to produce weapons of mass
destruction and in exposing the long-running A.Q. Khan nuclear-proliferation
"It [the intelligence community] engaged
in imaginative, successful (and highly classified) operations
in many parts of the world. Tactical support to counterterrorism
efforts is excellent, and there are signs of a boldness
that would have been unimaginable before September 11, 2001,"
the report said.
The intelligence agencies, however, failed
both to communicate effectively with policy-makers and to
explain adequately how little good intelligence it had,
the report said. Too many of the assessments were driven
by assumptions and inferences rather than concrete evidence,
the commission concluded.
Although the report indicated there was
no evidence the intelligence estimates had been manipulated
for political purposes, it did note that at this point the
United States knows "disturbingly little" about
threats posed by many other nations to U.S. national security.
The commission examined the intelligence
community's performance in assessing the nuclear, biological
and chemical weapons activities of three countries: Iraq,
Afghanistan and Libya. The commission also studied U.S.
capabilities against terrorism and in dealing with other
intelligence problems in Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.
"We wanted a range of studies so we
would not judge the intelligence community solely on its
handling of Iraq," the report said.
President Bush appointed the group, officially
designated the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities
of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction,
in February 2004 and directed release of its report by March
The commission released two reports -- one
made public and a second longer, classified report.
This public report follows a long line of
investigations and reports by various committees and commissions,
some conducted by the U.S. Congress. The president, acting
on findings and recommendations from the 9/11 Commission
set up to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks on the United States, signed the Intelligence Reform
and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 into law in December
2004. That law aimed to revamp the U.S. intelligence community
and management of counterterrorism analysis and operations.
The law also created the post of director
of national intelligence to oversee the 15 agencies that
make up the intelligence community. John D. Negroponte,
U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has been nominated to be the first
Because of the critical role of strategic
intelligence in policy-making, the WMD Commission report
contains 74 specific recommendations for improvements in
U.S. intelligence and far-reaching recommendations for the
incoming director of national intelligence.
Some of the key commission recommendations
-- Institute strong leadership and management
of the intelligence community led by the director of national
-- Organize intelligence operations around
-- Establish a National Counter-Proliferation
Center to coordinate the fight against weapons of mass destruction;
-- Build a modern intelligence community
-- Create mechanisms for sustained oversight
from outside the intelligence community -- and for self-examination
from the inside;
-- Create a new Human Intelligence Directorate
at the Central Intelligence Agency that provides improved
coordination among all intelligence agencies;
-- Strengthen long-term and strategic intelligence
-- Combine the FBI's counterterrorism, counterintelligence
and intelligence resources into a single National Security
Service office within the FBI;
-- Encourage diverse and independent analysis;
-- Establish a new National Security Division
within the U.S. Justice Department under the authority of
an assistant attorney general for national security;
-- Create a unified information-sharing
effort under the director of national intelligence to integrate
the work of the 15 different agencies reporting to policy-makers.
The entire WMD
Commission report is available on the commission's Website.
Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: