McCain and Obama differences on intelligence

From Bloomberg.com:

John McCain and Barack Obama agree that the next president needs to shake up U.S. spy operations. That’s where the similarity ends.

Whoever wins Nov. 4, the next president must overhaul a $47.5 billion intelligence effort, spread through 16 agencies, that’s still struggling seven years after failing to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and six years after wrongly concluding that Iraq had WMD.

The latest challenge involves revamping a 2004 law that was supposed to repair flaws exposed by 9/11 and Iraq, national security analysts say. The law established a new office led by a director of national intelligence, or DNI, to oversee the CIA and other intelligence operations. So far, the law has added a layer of bureaucracy without giving the director – currently former NSA Director Mike McConnell – enough authority over agencies’ budgets, national security analysts say.

“The DNI is still very much a work in progress, and a lot people are thinking it’s not working,” says Mark Lowenthal, former CIA assistant director for analysis and production. The next president must get it right, because U.S. spies face an array of threats besides terrorists and hostile countries like Iran and North Korea, advisers from both campaigns say.

Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate claims of questionable eavesdropping

From the New York Times:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, said Thursday that the committee would investigate claims by two military eavesdroppers that they routinely listened in on private calls home from American military officers, aid workers and journalists stationed in Iraq.

The two former intelligence officers, Adrienne Kinne, an Army reservist, and David Murfee Faulk, a Navy linguist, spoke Thursday to ABC News. They also were interviewed for a book on the National Security Agency by James Bamford, a former ABC producer and author of two earlier books on the agency, that is scheduled for publication next week.

Mr. Faulk said that when another eavesdropper protested that they were personal calls and should not be transcribed, a supervisor replied, “My orders were to transcribe everything.”

It was unclear whether the intercepts the two former intelligence officers described were part of the program of surveillance without warrants that President Bush approved shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks. He and other officials said that program intercepted only calls of people believed to be linked to Al Qaeda.

A statement issued by the NSA on Thursday night said, “Some of these allegations have been investigated and found to be unsubstantiated; others are in the investigation process.”

The statement said the agency operated within the law and took accusations of wrongdoing seriously. “When we find misconduct, we take swift and certain remedial action,” the statement said.