Alexander favors independent intelligence czar

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  JONESBOROUGH -- U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says he favors creating a national director of intelligence but says the post should be established outside the White House.
  "I like the proposal of the 9-11 Commission that we have a unified center of our nation's intelligence agencies," Alexander told media members shortly after speaking at a ceremony dedicating the International Storytelling Center here on Wednesday morning. "I am skeptical of putting the intelligence chief in the White House."
  In its final report issued last month, the 9-11 Commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States recommended the creation of an "intelligence czar" who would coordinate federal agencies including CIA, FBI, U.S. Customs and others to combat terrorism.
  Earlier this week President Bush nominated Rep. Porter Goss to head the embattled CIA. A former CIA intelligence officer, Goss, R-Fla., was chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence until stepping down from the seat on Wednesday. He now faces confirmation hearings in the Senate before winning approval as CIA director.
  In speaking with Washington media members, a White House spokesman did not rule Goss out as the nation's first intelligence czar. Senate Democrats have accused the selection of a House Republican as election-year politics.
  Alexander, R-Tenn., indicated that moving the new office under the auspices of the White House could give the appearance of politicizing intelligence and national security issues.
  "The White House is not a place for which to operate programs," he said. "That office should be outside the White House."
  The CIA and FBI have endured public criticism regarding their performance before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In its recommendations to restructure the U.S. intelligence community, the commission identified problems prior to Sept. 11 such as structural barriers to joint agency cooperation, too many jobs for each agency, and the intense secrecy and complexity of resources of each agency.