WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Thursday announced a restructuring of the nation's intelligence-gathering apparatus, approving new guidelines that bolster the authority of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the leader of the nation's 16 spy agencies.
The changes were part of a long-awaited overhaul of Executive Order 12333, a Ronald Reagan-era document that establishes the powers and responsibilities of U.S. intelligence services. Most of the revisions were aimed at underscoring the predominant role of the national intelligence director, the office created by Congress three years ago in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The revamped order specifically places the national intelligence director in charge of setting priorities for the 16 spy agencies as well as issuing guidelines on how intelligence is collected, analyzed and shared, including foreign intelligence. It also gives the director a greater voice in the hiring and firing of senior intelligence officials.
The document calls on intelligence agencies to use "all reasonable and lawful means" to safeguard U.S. citizens and reaffirms the nation's "long-standing commitment to protecting civil liberties," a senior administration official said in a briefing to reporters about the changes.
Left essentially unchanged is a prohibition against assassinations of foreign leaders, as well as restrictions on human experimentation, the document states.
Lawmakers of both major political parties immediately criticized the administration for what they said was needless secrecy in its development of the reforms. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., called the order "an attempt to undercut congressional oversight."