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Senators introduce bill to centralize U.S. intelligence agencies | (KRT) Sen. Bob Graham and two Democratic allies Thursday introduced legislation to shake up intelligence agencies and create a Cabinet-level "czar" to oversee them to better protect the nation against terrorist attacks.

Taking advantage of the publicity over the congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Graham's bill incorporates many of the report's bipartisan recommendations, designed to centralize the government's 14 agencies that handle intelligence and improve accountability.

The final report of the joint House-Senate investigation found numerous examples of the CIA, FBI and other agencies not sharing information and even working at cross purposes. The report found those problems helped contribute to the success of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We cannot, we will not tolerate a repeat of Sept. 11, a repeat of the mistakes and the missed opportunities that cost the lives of 3,000 Americans," said Graham, a Florida Democrat who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee during last year's investigation.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., two members of the committee, are co-sponsors. Graham said he expects some Republican support for the bill, since it reflects the work of both House and Senate committees.

But Graham's harsh criticism of President Bush on intelligence and national security - a key element of the Graham campaign for president - may make it difficult to attract GOP support for the measure.

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The idea of a Cabinet-level director of national intelligence to oversee the often fractured intelligence "community" has been around for years. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser for the first President Bush, backs the change - but it will likely meet intense resistance from the Pentagon and other agencies.

CIA Director George Tenet is the nominal leader of the intelligence community, but controls only 15 to 20 percent of the intelligence budget. Most of it is controlled by the Defense Department.

Graham noted that Tenet "declared war" on Osama bin Laden in 1998, but his "spare no resources" memo targeting al-Qaida terrorists as a top priority was never followed.

"We learned that only a few at the CIA responded to his battle cry, and no one at the other agencies, especially the FBI, had even heard the trumpet," Graham said. "The intelligence community needs a leader with the clout to set common goals, establish priorities, knock heads, and when necessary assure that the American people are protected."

Graham's bill also requires the FBI to make counterterrorism a top priority, overhaul its information technology and make it easier to share intelligence with state and local authorities.

Another goal of the legislation is a National Terrorist Watchlist Center, with a centralized data base of suspected terrorists accessible to border security and law enforcement.

A recent report from the General Accounting Office found that 18 months after Sept. 11, nine federal agencies maintained 12 different lists with different names.

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© 2003, Chicago Tribune Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services