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Clinton to restructure intelligence agencies

Published Oct. 6, 1996|Updated Sep. 16, 2005

President Clinton has decided to sign into law a bill that modestly restructures the intelligence community, even though CIA Director John Deutch strongly objects to a provision creating three new assistant directors of central intelligence and has vowed to seek its repeal, according to White House officials.

Among other changes, the bill would give the FBI an explicit right to subpoena local telephone records and clearly authorize the CIA and the National Security Agency to collect data on foreign citizens for U.S. law-enforcement investigations.

It would for the first time require Senate confirmation of the CIA's general counsel, an action meant to preclude undue political influence over a post responsible for blocking illegal covert action. It would also prohibit foreign employment of senior intelligence officials for three years after leaving government.

The bill nonetheless has been characterized even by its supporters as a pale shadow of the reforms that some lawmakers had sought at the CIA and other intelligence agencies in the wake of scandals.

Dropped from the legislation were a series of proposals giving the director of central intelligence legal authority to manage spending by intelligence agencies now controlled by the secretary of defense, as well as the right to approve the persons nominated to head such agencies.

The proposals had grown out of lawmakers' frustrations with waste and duplication in activities conducted by 13 different U.S. intelligence agencies. But senior Defense Department officials, working through the House and Senate committees that control the Pentagon budget, successfully torpedoed what they viewed as an undue concentration of power in the CIA director's office.

"This legislation is a very, very significant step forward . . . (but) candidly, not as far as we should have gone," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a key backer of the new bill. He attributed most of its shortcomings to "bureaucratic resistance."

The bill's principal provision would create a deputy director of central intelligence for community management, adding considerably more firepower to a post now known as executive director for intelligence community affairs. The aim, in part, is to centralize management of the disparate personnel, training and security programs now maintained by the 13 agencies.

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