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Clearing Up Confusion In Intelligence Community

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Clearing Up Confusion In Intelligence Community

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Clearing Up Confusion In Intelligence Community

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. Venting size problems for the coffee chain, Starbucks. What the closure of one store means for a suburb of Chicago. That story in just a few moments.

CHADWICK: First, if you're a fan of spy movies, maybe you recall executive order one, two, triple three. That's the presidential directive that lays down the rules under which the CIA goes about its work. For instance, it prohibits the agency from murdering people, assassinating them. The order was issued about 20 years ago by President Reagan and, until now, has not really been significantly revised. But President Bush yesterday signed a new order with changes for one, two, triple three. Here with us is NPR's Intelligence Correspondent, Tom Gjelten. Tom, welcome back to the show, what are the big changes here?

TOM GJELTEN: Well, Alex, let's talk first about what hasn't changed. The CIA still can't assassinate people. That hasn't changed. The CIA can't recruit journalists, Alex, to be agents. I don't know if you knew that that was prohibited.

CHADWICK: Oh, darn!

(Soundbite of laughter)

GJELTEN: It can't recruit priests. There's actually a lot in here. Can't carry out experiments on people without their consent, which actually happened in the '50s when the CIA was giving people LSD without them knowing, to see how they reacted. None of that has changed. There's still a lot in here about protecting privacy and civil liberties. The big thing is that the regulation has been rewritten to reflect changes that happened, actually in 2004, when a new law was passed, the Intelligence Reform Act, that created this new position called Director of National Intelligence. Oddly enough, the executive order had never been changed to reflect that, so now the whole rules and regulations of the intelligence community have been rewritten to reflect this new position, Director of National Intelligence.

CHADWICK: So, what is going to happen to the CIA in all of this?

GJELTEN: Well, what happened to the CIA in 2004 is really what happened to the head of the CIA. He had two positions. He was also Director of Central Intelligence, and that made him responsible for all the intelligence activities in the U.S. government, not just the CIA. That portion of his responsibility was stripped away and given to this new person, the Director of National Intelligence. So the CIA, in a sense, has been downgraded a little bit. However the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, under this executive order, doesn't actually get a whole lot of new authority. So, Alex, there's been tremendous turf battles going on here for the past year, as these various agency heads try to determine what powers they have. It appears that the White House has basically decided to finesse the issue, because it's not really clear that a whole lot has changed.

CHADWICK: Also, unbeknownst to those of us who don't follow the intelligence community all the time, there's been a big dispute going on to try to work out the implications of this Intelligence Reform Law from a few years ago, which didn't change the basic operating procedure under which the agencies operated. Have I got it?

GJELTEN: Well, here's the thing, Alex. So you have this new position, the Director of National Intelligence. What a lot of people in the CIA and Pentagon feared is that this guy would gain control over the huge 40 billion dollar intelligence budget, which would really weaken the Pentagon and weaken the CIA. The heads of the Pentagon intelligence agencies and the CIA fought viciously to protect the budget authority. Apparently they haven't lost it. Another thing, the CIA has always had what's called a Chief of Station in Overseas Capitals, the top intelligence person. There's a fear that the DNI would be able to name new people, bypassing the CIA. This was a big fear up until a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, again, the White House has just decided not to challenge the existing order, so things are basically going to remain the same, with just different names attached.

CHADWICK: Well, who are the losers here?

GJELTEN: The loser is the Director of National Intelligence. We expected him to have a lot more new authorities. Basically, he's got this fancy title, he's got a small staff, but doesn't have a whole lot of new power.

CHADWICK: So, what's the reaction there, in Washington and in the intelligence community? They're popping the champagne bottles over in Langley, at the CIA?

GJELTEN: I think they preserved what they needed to preserve. There's a lot of members of Congress who are upset because they wanted a voice in this, and apparently this new executive order was just presented to members of the Congress as a fait accompli. A lot of congressmen who wanted a hand in rewriting this feel that they got shut out of the process, Alex.

CHADWICK: NPR's Tom Gjelten reporting from Washington. Tom, thank you again.

GJELTEN: Any time, Alex.

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