Wednesday, June 29, 2005

White House to accept most WMD report recommendations


White House to accept most WMD report recommendations

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has accepted 70 of 74 recommendations from a presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction, including creating a new counterproliferation center and lumping the FBI counterterrorism and intelligence operations into a new unit, sources briefed on Tuesday said.

The WMD commission issued a 600-page report on March 31 that sharply criticized U.S. intelligence efforts on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as "dead wrong" and made recommendations on how to improve intelligence collection and information sharing at the spy agencies.

The White House on Wednesday plans to make public the results of a three-month review of the report, and issue an executive order aimed at targeting the assets of companies believed to be helping North Korea, Iran and Syria acquire technology for use in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The White House will accept 70 of the 74 commission recommendations, three will be studied further and one was changed from the way it was recommended, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

U.S. intelligence agencies have come under fire for faulty intelligence since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and legislation was enacted last year to overhaul the system, including the creation of a director of national intelligence to oversee the 15 spy agencies.

The report of The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was the latest in a series of reviews of U.S. intelligence.

The White House will advocate keeping the CIA in charge of human spying operations among the intelligence agencies. It also supports the creation of a National Security Service at the FBI to meld its counterterrorism and intelligence functions, the sources said.

The CIA has been sharply criticized for prewar judgments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. None have been found. The Bush administration cited the threat from weapons of mass destruction as a key justification for invading Iraq in March 2003.

The White House had no comment on the WMD report review conducted by Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend.

The WMD commission, led by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Virginia Democratic Sen. Charles Robb, called for a broad overhaul in the intelligence community to increase information sharing among the 15 agencies and foster dissenting views.

It recommended that the president establish a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate intelligence on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons among the 15 spy agencies.

The commission echoed other post-Sept. 11 reviews and reports that said the intelligence agencies must improve information sharing with each other, and the panel called for taking action to end the turf war between the FBI and CIA.