CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The CIA's (search) push to seal large sections of a Senate committee's report on the agency's prewar assessment of the threat posed by Iraq (search) is another sign the nation's intelligence system must be revamped, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search) told The Associated Press on Monday.
"The problem with the intelligence community is getting them to shift from the Cold War (search)," he said. "Classifying things is a Washington mania, and in the intelligence community even more so, and they often withhold things from each other."
The Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence has largely finished a 400-page report expected to be highly critical of the intelligence community's prewar intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (search) and his ties to terrorist groups. Rockefeller is the ranking Democrat on the panel.
The senator said the committee is asking the CIA to reconsider its finding that material in the report would harm national security if disclosed. Barred from discussing its contents, he said the committee is also appealing to the White House, and is considering rewriting portions to soothe CIA concerns.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said Monday night his agency takes "the protection of intelligence sources and methods very seriously. ... The process of reviewing intelligence information for declassification is difficult, complex and not without flaws.
"But we've been working closely with the Senate Intelligence Committee on these matters, and we will continue to," Mansfield said.
Rockefeller's envisioned overhaul of intelligence gathering includes a single official, possibly at the cabinet level, to oversee the nation's 15 intelligence-gathering agencies.
"What we need to have is a director of national intelligence, who controls all — budgets, allocation of resources, operations," he said.
Rockefeller also warned that the nation is losing precious time to overhaul the system amid two possible threats: the toppling of the pro-U.S. regime in Saudi Arabia and the emergence of Africa as a major recruiting ground for terrorists.
The kidnapping and beheading of American engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. is the latest action in Saudi Arabia by the Al Qaeda (search) terror group and its allies, Rockefeller said.
"I have always thought that Saudi Arabia was going to be the next target, and it is," he said.
Africa, meanwhile, has "huge potential" for terrorism.
"East and west, they have very large Islamic communities," he said. "It can go way beyond Islam. It can be people who have just been poor all their lives and have suddenly been given reason to be angry about it."