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Raw Data: Panel Letter to Bush

Text of the letter to President Bush that accompanied the commission report, released Thursday, on U.S. intelligence capabilities:

Mr. President:

With this letter, we transmit the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Our unanimous report is based on a lengthy investigation, during which we interviewed hundreds of experts from inside and outside the intelligence community and reviewed thousands of documents. Our report offers 74 recommendations for improving the U.S. intelligence community (all but a handful of which we believe can be implemented without statutory change). But among these recommendations a few points merit special emphasis.

Click here to read the full report.

We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure. Its principal causes were the intelligence community's inability to collect good information about Iraq's WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions, rather than good evidence. On a matter of this importance, we simply cannot afford failures of this magnitude.

After a thorough review, the commission found no indication that the intelligence community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told you about Saddam Hussein's programs was what they believed. They were simply wrong.

As you asked, we looked as well beyond Iraq in our review of the intelligence community's capabilities. We conducted case studies of our intelligence agencies' recent performance assessing the risk of WMD in Libya and Afghanistan and our current capabilities with respect to several of the world's most dangerous state and non-state proliferation threats. Out of this more comprehensive review, we report both bad news and good news. The bad news is that we still know disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries. The good news is that we have had some solid intelligence successes - thanks largely to innovative and multi-agency collection techniques.

Our review has convinced us that the best hope for preventing future failures is dramatic change. We need an intelligence community that is truly integrated, far more imaginative and willing to run risks, open to a new generation of Americans and receptive to new technologies.

We have summarized our principal recommendations for the entire intelligence community in the overview of the report. Here, we focus on recommendations that we believe only you can effect if you choose to implement them:

_Give the DNI powers - and backing - to match his responsibilities.

In your public statement accompanying the announcement of Ambassador (John) Negroponte's nomination as director of national intelligence, you have already moved in this direction. The new intelligence law makes the DNI responsible for integrating the 15 independent members of the intelligence community. But it gives him powers that are only relatively broader than before. The DNI cannot make this work unless he takes his legal authorities over budget, programs, personnel and priorities to the limit. It won't be easy to provide this leadership to the intelligence components of the Defense Department, or to the CIA. They are some of the government's most headstrong agencies. Sooner or later, they will try to run around - or over - the DNI. Then, only your determined backing will convince them that we cannot return to the old ways.

--Bring the FBI all the way into the intelligence community.

The FBI is one of the proudest and most independent agencies in the United States Government. It is on its way to becoming an effective intelligence agency, but it will never arrive if it insists on using only its own map. We recommend that you order an organizational reform of the bureau that pulls all of its intelligence capabilities into one place and subjects them to the coordinating authority of the DNI - the same authority that the DNI exercises over Defense Department intelligence agencies. Under this recommendation, the counterterrorism and counterintelligence resources of the bureau would become a single National Security Service inside the FBI. It would of course still be subject to the attorney general's oversight and to current legal rules. The intelligence reform act almost accomplishes this task, but at crucial points it retreats into ambiguity. Without leadership from the DNI, the FBI is likely to continue escaping effective integration into the intelligence community.

--Demand more of the intelligence community.

The intelligence community needs to be pushed. It will not do its best unless it is pressed by policy-makers - sometimes to the point of discomfort. Analysts must be pressed to explain how much they don't know; the collection agencies must be pressed to explain why they don't have better information on key topics. While policy-makers must be prepared to credit intelligence that doesn't fit their preferences, no important intelligence assessment should be accepted without sharp questioning that forces the community to explain exactly how it came to that assessment and what alternatives might also be true. This is not "politicization"; it is a necessary part of the intelligence process. And in the end, it is the key to getting the best from an intelligence community that, at its best, knows how to do astonishing things.

--Rethink the president's daily brief.

The daily intelligence briefings given to you before the Iraq war were flawed. Through attention-grabbing headlines and repetition of questionable data, these briefings overstated the case that Iraq was rebuilding its WMD programs. There are many other aspects of the daily brief that deserve to be reconsidered as well, but we are reluctant to make categorical recommendations on a process that in the end must meet your needs, not our theories. On one point, however, we want to be specific: While the DNI must be ultimately responsible for the content of your daily briefing, we do not believe that the DNI ought to prepare, deliver, or even attend every briefing. For if the DNI is consumed by current intelligence, the long-term needs of the intelligence community will suffer.

There is no more important intelligence mission than understanding the worst weapons that our enemies possess, and how they intend to use them against us. These are their deepest secrets, and unlocking them must be our highest priority. So far, despite some successes, our intelligence community has not been agile and innovative enough to provide the information that the nation needs. Other commissions and observers have said the same. We should not wait for another commission or another administration to force widespread change in the intelligence community.