Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the committee chairman, unveiled on Sunday the most sweeping intelligence reorganization proposal offered by anyone since the Sept. 11 commission called for major changes. In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Roberts acknowledged that full details had yet to be shared with either the White House or with Senate Democrats.
"We didn't pay attention to turf or agencies or boxes" but rather to "what are the national security threats that face this country today," Roberts said of the proposals supported by eight GOP members of the intelligence committee. "I'm trying to build a consensus around something that's very different and very bold."
But he immediately ran into some resistance from a Democrat on his own committee. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that before appearing with Roberts on the CBS show neither he nor the committee's ranking Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, had seen the full proposal.
"I think it would be better to start on a bipartisan basis," Levin said. "I think it's a mistake to begin with a partisan bill no matter what is in it."
Rand Beers, national security adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, welcomed Roberts' proposal and described it as very similar to Kerry's proposals. But he added that bipartisan support would be needed as well as leadership from President Bush.
"Bush still appears to be dragging his feet and resisting any real changes," Beers said.
The White House was a bit more noncommittal. "We look forward to reviewing the details of Sen. Roberts' proposal," said White House spokesman Brian Besanceney. "We have taken nothing off the table."
The commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks called for a powerful national intelligence director who could force the nation's many agencies to cooperate.
Up to now the debate has focused on how much power to give that official rather than on retooling agencies. Most Democrats have supported the commission's proposal that the new director have authority over hiring and spending by the intelligence agencies. President Bush has endorsed creating the position but has not reached a final decision on what powers the office should have.
Roberts said his aides had spoken with White House officials and would share the details of his proposal with them on Monday.