The need to expand and better integrate the resources of the U.S. intelligence community was one of the central recommendations of the admirably bipartisan 9/11 commission. With the close of the cold war, Congress had reduced the resources available to the Central Intelligence Agency, as the traditional mission of that agency sought new definition. Many of its overseas stations were closed, and a reduction in personnel led to the departure of experienced agents. Furthermore, in reviewing the intelligence failures that allowed the terrorist attacks of 2001 to happen, it became clear that the notion of an intelligence community did not truly describe the various government agencies engaged in intelligence gathering, which often competed with one another like rival fiefs.
The appointment of John Negroponte as director of national intelligence was a response to the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Assigning the C.I.A. its place in a more coherent intelligence community was a challenge for Mr. Negroponte, particularly after the appointment of Porter Goss as director of the Central Intelligence Agency a year and a half ago. The abrupt resignation of Mr. Goss and his chief deputy, Kyle Foggo, in mid-May was the culmination of a series of conflicts between Mr. Goss and Mr. Negroponte. To succeed Mr. Goss as director of the C.I.A., President Bush nominated Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, who as head of the National Security Agency had reported to Mr. Negroponte.
General Hayden had been at the center of the controversy over the N.S.A. program of monitoring the phone calls of U.S. citizens without securing the warrants required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). General Hayden had defended the program, which led to criticism from former Senator Robert Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 commission, that he had been too willing to accommodate the wishes of the White House. Others expressed misgivings about the appointment of a military officer to head a civilian agency, even though several former C.I.A. directors came from military backgrounds. In the end, however, General Hayden’s appointment won swift confirmation by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the full Senate, and he assumed his new office as C.I.A. director near the end of May.
The appointment of Mr. Goss as C.I.A. director was a mistake, an attempt to reform the agency in the image of the Bush administration. Mr. Goss sought to close down any leaks that reflected misgivings within the agency over White House policies. The elevation of Mr. Foggo from relative obscurity within the agency led to the resignation of more experienced intelligence professionals.
Despite the initial misgivings of Senator Kerrey and others, General Hayden has impressive professional credentials. His appointment won the support of C.I.A. veterans, both active and recently retired. He now faces the challenge of restoring morale within the agency at a time when its historic mission will be newly defined, as Mr. Negroponte seeks to integrate all of the intelligence gathering agencies into an authentic intelligence community, where information is shared and evaluated in support of the national interest rather than any partisan political priorities.
Despite the challenges ahead for Mr. Negroponte, General Hayden and the intelligence professionals who report to them, there is encouraging evidence that the necessary expansion of overseas intelligence networks is already well underway. Beginning in the late 1990’s, according to reports released before General Hayden’s confirmation hearings, Congress has made resources available that allowed the agency to recruit new personnel, reopen some overseas stations that had been closed and establish new ones.
Intelligence gathering in this new age of international terrorism will be a far more complex task than it was during the days of the cold war, when the United States confronted a clearly defined adversary in the Soviet Union. The terrorists responsible for the London and Madrid bombings and those recently arrested in Canada appear to be home-grown terrorists, who may draw inspiration from Osama bin Laden but do not operate under the centralized control of his Al Qaeda organization. The more fragmented the network of international terrorists, experts tell us, the more formidable the challenge to the intelligence gathering agencies of the United States and its allies. To meet that challenge, Mr. Negroponte and the dedicated professionals under him must be free from partisan political pressure if they are to define and defend our national security.