Tenet doubts benefits of an intelligence czar

The former director of Central Intelligence said today that intelligence reform needs to focus on disseminating information rather than restructuring organizations.

'Ultimately, this is all about data, not structure,' George Tenet said at the E-Gov Institute's homeland security conference in Washington. 'Data sharing and management is the most critical area of reform.'

Tenet, who headed the CIA for seven years before his resignation last summer, said naming an intelligence czar as proposed in legislation now before Congress would not work.

'I don't think you should separate the leader of this country's intelligence from a line agency,' he said, because an intelligence director must command people and take risks or else lose authority.

Tenet acknowledged intelligence mistakes prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but defended his former agency's performance. Going forward, he said, there must be a mechanism for pushing intelligence data to local law enforcement agencies on the front lines against terrorism.

'We have collected an enormous amount of data about how this enemy thinks, trains and operates,' he said. 'We can't just disseminate threat reports and scare the living bejesus out of everybody.'

Information sharing depends on a trusted infrastructure that does not now exist, Tenet said. 'We are at a crossroads building these new facilities on a poor foundation of security.'

Trust must be built into IT products and services, he said. If the current Internet cannot provide the trust necessary to support national security, separate air-gapped networks could be required.

'Ultimately the Wild West must give way to governance and control,' Tenet said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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