Canton Repository

December 11, 2002

DeWine calls for spy boss, more money for espionage 

Copley Washington correspondent 

WASHINGTON — Spending more money on spies and empowering a single person to oversee the entire national intelligence network are among the keys to preventing a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks, Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

“The best defense is a good offense,” said DeWine, R-Cedarville, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The offense that is the most important is good intelligence, knowing what the enemy is going to do before he does it to us. That means old-fashioned spying.”

As a member of the intelligence panel, DeWine is among a handful of lawmakers who shaped a still-secret congressional report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The House and Senate intelligence committees approved the report Tuesday. A separate independent commission headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also will be investigating last year’s attacks.

Acknowledging that “there certainly was an intelligence failure” in the government’s inability to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorism, DeWine said lack of resources was more to blame than individuals.

Democrats on the intelligence committee, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, have been more critical of the government’s failure.

Durbin said lack of funding was “an easy excuse. But the fact is there were substantial amounts of money, substantial numbers of professionals dedicated to counterterrorism, who didn’t do their job as well as they should have.”

DeWine endorsed one of the report’s key proposals — creating a cabinet-level position of director of central intelligence. The person appointed to that post would have authority over the entire intelligence community, including the CIA.

“There needs to be one person who has more authority and ultimate authority to be in charge of intelligence in this country,” he said.

While the CIA director is supposed to run the nation’s intelligence operation, he has control of less than 20 percent of intelligence spending, DeWine said. The Pentagon controls a large share.

DeWine added that CIA Director George Tenet understood the danger posed by al Qaida as early as 1998, but he didn’t have the clout to deploy sufficient government resources against the terrorist organization blamed for Sept. 11.

While calling for increased spending on intelligence, DeWine declined to say how much more. The intelligence budget is kept secret in the interests of national security.

“We’ve already increased it significantly,” he said. “It’s more a question of stamina.”

DeWine cautioned against blaming individuals for not preventing the attack, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Pennsylvania.

A key problem, he said, is that the nation cut spending on intelligence after the Cold War, leaving the CIA and other agencies without sufficient resources.

The committee report does not propose the creation of a domestic spy agency, and DeWine is not convinced one is necessary. But he has not ruled it out, he said. The senator is planning a trip to England to see how its domestic spy operation works.

DeWine supports changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that requires the government to get permission from a special court to conduct wiretaps or searches of people suspected of terrorism or espionage.

Congress should find a way to oversee the court to make sure it is carrying out the law as Congress intended, he said. DeWine also is concerned about protecting the civil liberties of those being investigated.

In addition, he said the law should be broadened to give the government more power to investigate individuals suspected of terrorism.