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Bush OKs intelligence changes

Katherine Shrader Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Bush granted the new national intelligence chief expanded power over the FBI on Wednesday and ordered dozens of other spy agency changes as the White House heeded a presidential commission that condemned the intelligence community for failures in Iraq and elsewhere.

But almost as soon as the details were unveiled, the White House was defending itself against suggestions that the moves were simply adding more bureaucracy without making changes that could have prevented misjudgments like those made on Iraq.

“It’s an unfair characterization to say it’s simply a restructuring,” said Bush’s homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, who led the 90-day review of the recommendations from the president’s commission on weapons of mass destruction. “It’s a fundamental strengthening of our intelligence capabilities.”

The White House said it endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations from the commission, which was led by Republican Judge Laurence Silberman and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and conducted a yearlong review of the 15 intelligence agencies.

In its scathing 600-page report released in March, the commission called the spy community “dead wrong on almost all of its prewar judgments” about Iraq’s weapons.

Robb called the White House’s broad acceptance of the proposals “truly extraordinary.”

Among the most significant changes the White House offered Wednesday, the Justice Department will be directed – with congressional approval – to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage and intelligence units under one new assistant attorney general for national security.

The White House ordered the creation of a National Security Service inside the FBI. And Bush sought to strengthen the hand of the new national intelligence director over the FBI, giving him expanded budget and management powers.

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said the FBI’s new security service would lead to an “erosion of constitutional protections against law enforcement actions.”

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