Salvo in intel turf war?

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In 1947, President Truman signed legislation creating a single Department of Defense and a single Central Intelligence Agency. In 2004, the 9/11 commission studied the failure of intelligence agencies to anticipate the massive terrorist attack, and strongly recommended the creation of a national intelligence director to unify overlapping intelligence activities. That director has yet to be named.

In January 2005, The Washington Post and The New York Times carried articles revealing that intelligence activities are less unified than ever. It appears that what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants, Rumsfeld gets. What CIA Director Porter Goss wants, he may or may not get.

What the Pentagon has are intelligence units financed with money not necessarily appropriated for that purpose. They are called "strategic support operations teams," and they can deploy with frontline military units. There is also a proposed Joint Intelligence Operational Command in the Pentagon, and there is a Special Operations Command based in Tampa, Fla., with authority to pay foreign agents. Time magazine reports that Rumsfeld is "pushing his generals to field a larger and more aggressive clandestine force to spy on terrorists worldwide and attack them." "Code Names," a new book by defense analyst William Arkin, identifies more than 100 secret agents, intelligence programs, and communications networks set up by the Pentagon to fight terrorists.

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All this looks like a large-scale invasion of CIA territory. The Post says Pentagon intelligence has been operating for two years in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places, presumably including Iran. The Times says that this is the first time that battlefield intelligence units have been assigned to work directly with Special Operations Forces on counterterrorism missions. The amazing amount of detail in the Post, the Times, and Time magazine stories suggests that somebody in the intelligence community is striking back at the Pentagon. Rumsfeld is quoted in correspondence with the Army command as saying the Defense Department should be less dependent on the CIA. Pentagon intelligence operations apparently do not get the kind of oversight that the CIA gets from congressional intelligence committees.

Now Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona says the Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on military intelligence. Congress is waking up late to the Pentagon's parallel intelligence operation.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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