WASHINGTON – Henry Kissinger (search) warned Congress on Tuesday to slow down the creation of a new intelligence superboss and said he and other cold warriors think only deliberation would ensure the change won't hurt America's intelligence and security capabilities.
The former secretary of state said he and his colleagues worry "that reform of the magnitude that is being talked about ... should not be rushed through in the last week of the congressional session in the middle of a presidential election campaign."
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Kissinger said, "The consequences of this reform will inevitably produce months and maybe years of turmoil as the adjustments are made."
Kissinger was national security adviser and then secretary of state for former President Nixon. He now is a foreign policy consultant.
Lawmakers plan to create a national intelligence director in response to the Sept. 11 commission's (search) complaint that a failure to cooperate by the nation's 15 military and civilian intelligence agencies precluded an effective defense that could have prevented the terror attacks on New York City and Washington.
Under legislation proposed in the House and Senate, the national intelligence director (search) would control and coordinate the nation's nonmilitary intelligence network and become the president's chief adviser on intelligence matters.
The Senate bill would give the intelligence director full hiring, firing and spending control over the CIA (search), the National Security Agency, the FBI's Office of Intelligence, the Homeland Security Department's intelligence directorate and other intelligence agencies that don't directly feed the Pentagon.
Governmental Affairs chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and ranking Democrat Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, plan to send their legislation to the full Senate on Wednesday.
The House bill, which will closely follow the White House's plan, also would let the intelligence chief coordinate nonmilitary spy agencies, but would limit the director's hiring and budgetary control. House leaders expect to start working on their legislation this week.
Kissinger, sitting in front of a placard that said "Dr. Henry," said many of his friends in the intelligence business are worried about changes Congress is considering. He said they wonder where the intelligence director would get his staff, whether the current intelligence agencies would be dissolved to make way for the new director and how much power this person would have in fact.
He said his experience from attending many National Security Council meetings made him worry about the proposed director's relationship with Cabinet members.
"If a quasicabinet member walks in there and says, 'I am the only source of intelligence, and I'm telling you the consequence of your actions objectively are the following,' what's the secretary of state and the secretary of defense going to say in reply?" Kissinger said. "It overbalances the system in the direction of the intelligence director."
Kissinger warned that having domestic and foreign intelligence under one person also might be a problem. "Creating an intelligence czar with domestic surveillance authority that is not under the attorney general, and measures that separate domestic intelligence from law enforcement, go against all the lessons that democratic governments have learned the hard way," he said.
Facing such considerations, Kissinger said, Congress should wait and make sure that what they're doing is correct. "Emphasizing quality is more important that moving boxes on an organization chart," he said.
Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., told Kissinger that asking Congress to deliberate longer is not an option. "It strikes me as the old political axiom: `When in doubt, do nothing; and stay in doubt all the time,"' the retiring senator said.
"I'm not saying nothing should done," Kissinger replied. "My major point is that it should be done with some deliberation. ... I'm in favor of coordination, not consolidation."