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Bush Says Reformation Needed For U.S. Intelligence Services

By David Johnston

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

President Bush said Monday that “now may be a time to revamp and reform our intelligence services,” opening the way for consideration of changes at the CIA, FBI and other agencies.

The Bush administration has not acted on a number of far-reaching proposals to reorganize the government’s intelligence organizations, including recommendations made last year by a congressional inquiry into the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and other independent intelligence panels.

Expanding the powers of the director of central intelligence and establishing a domestic intelligence agency like the British MI5 are among ideas now circulating in Washington as the independent commission looking into the attacks holds hearings and prepares to make new recommendations.

Bush, speaking to reporters at his ranch in Texas at a joint appearance with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, did not mention any specific changes but said he looked forward to receiving the commission’s proposals.

“We’re thinking about that ourselves and we look forward to working with the commission,” he said.

The president’s comments are an indication that he is turning attention to intelligence matters at a moment when the CIA and FBI are under intense criticism by the commission.

Draft reports by the commission say Attorney General John Ashcroft did not deeply involve himself in counterterrorism issues before the Sept. 11 attacks, despite intelligence warnings that summer that al-Qaida could be planning a large attack in the United States, according to panel officials and others who have seen the reports.

Aides to Ashcroft, who is scheduled to testify before the commission on Tuesday, say he will tell the panel that he was briefed throughout the year on terrorist threats and was never informed -- by either the FBI or CIA -- that he needed to take special action, since intelligence reports suggested that any attack would be overseas.