WASHINGTON – Acting CIA (search) Director John McLaughlin told agency employees that the "devil is in the details" on the formation of a new national intelligence director and those details will take time to finalize, according to an internal CIA message.
Responding quickly to a leading recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission (search), President Bush announced Monday he would support the creation of the new post to oversee the country's 15 intelligence agencies, touching off intense debate about the scope of that person's responsibilities.
In his message Tuesday, McLaughlin acknowledged the new position would have "important implications" for the CIA but said the impact will not be clear for some time.
"As always in our business, the devil is in the details and the truth is that many of these have yet to be worked out," wrote McLaughlin, who as CIA director also oversees intelligence community.
Bush's proposal departs in key areas from the 9/11 commission's recommendation. His blueprint would give the new director authority to "coordinate" the budgets of the intelligence agencies, as the CIA director now does, but not the final say on how much they receive or how they spend it.
The Sept. 11 commission also said the director should have the power to hire and fire the heads of the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI (search) intelligence office and other agencies. Bush's plan, however, simply envisions giving the director a say in those decisions.
In his page-long message to agency employees, McLaughlin said the final proposal will be affected by factors including administration and intelligence community views, along with congressional debate. Some House and Senate committees have cut short their August recess to return to Washington for hearings on intelligence reforms.
"There is plainly merit in having a single individual with reach into both the foreign and domestic intelligence communities," wrote McLaughlin. "But there is still much to be defined about the scope, duties and activities of that office."
"That discussion is just beginning," he added, telling employees to stay "tightly focused" on their current missions.
At recent public events, Bush has acknowledged the debate about the intelligence director's powers and other proposed changes. "Reform is never easy in Washington," Bush said.