Intelligence panel may recommend more authority for CIA director

A panel of intelligence experts may recommend giving the head of the CIA control over three of the Pentagon's largest spy agencies. Next month, a presidential panel of intelligence experts from outside the government is expected to recommend that CIA Director George J. Tenet be given authority over the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, according to a report in the Washington Post. The agencies are now part of the Defense Department. The National Security Agency intercepts and analyzes foreign electromagnetic signals, the National Reconnaissance Office builds and operates intelligence satellites and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency interprets satellite pictures and creates military maps. In addition to the CIA, which is an independent agency, the intelligence community is made up of 13 government agencies from the Defense, State, Energy, Treasury and Justice departments. The director of central intelligence heads the CIA and oversees the entire intelligence community, but his authority outside the CIA is limited. In May, President Bush directed the CIA to review the federal intelligence apparatus and assess whether the government should spend more money on gathering foreign secrets. Two panels of intelligence experts, one from inside the government and one from outside, were charged with taking stock of the intelligence community. Retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents George H. W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford, is heading the panel of outside experts. The panel of inside experts, led by Joan Dempsey, the CIA's deputy director of central intelligence for community management, suspended its activities following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Post reported. The CIA had no comment on the proposed recommendation to give Tenet direct control over the three Pentagon agencies. "It is premature for us to comment on the report at this time," said Mike Tadie, an agency spokesman. "Just because it is a proposed recommendation does not mean it will happen." If the panel suggests shifting authority over the agencies from the Pentagon to the director of central intelligence, "there will be all kinds of hearings on ... [Capitol] Hill," he said. Scowcroft's panel plans to issue its final report in early December, Tadie said.