WASHINGTON – Three former spymasters told senators Monday that creating a new national intelligence director (search) would be worthless without giving that person authority over the budgets of the nation's spy agencies.
"The intelligence community does not need a feckless czar, with fine surroundings and little authority," said William Webster, who has headed both the CIA and the FBI.
And the power of the purse will help the new director make the nation's 15 intelligence agencies cooperate, as well as listen to what he or she has to say, James Woolsey (search) told the Governmental Affairs and Intelligence committees. "Whoever has the gold makes the rules," he said.
Webster, who was CIA director during 1987-91; Woolsey, head of CIA in 1993-95; and Stansfield Turner (search) who was in charge at CIA in 1977-81, were reacting to the Sept. 11 commission's suggestion that Congress create an intelligence director of near-Cabinet rank to coordinate all the intelligence agencies.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is readying legislation that would create a new national intelligence director along with a new National Counterterrorism Center (search), as envisioned by the 9/11 commission to coordinate and control the intelligence community.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) has endorsed the commission's proposals. President Bush also supports creating the new position but rejected the commission's call to let the director control all intelligence budgets and choose who leads the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies.
Turner told the senators, "The worst thing that can come of this is we create an NID and not give him authority."
Although the Government Affairs Committee is writing the legislation, Intelligence chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he would submit a draft bill to Government Affairs chair Susan Collins, R-Maine, for discussion by Wednesday.
Roberts said he expects his committee's draft bill to be close to the Sept. 11 commission's suggestion of a powerful director with the authority to hire and fire people as well as budgetary authority.
"Control of the money, after all, is tantamount to power," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.