WASHINGTON – A panel of White House advisers warned President Obama in a secret report that U.S. spy agencies were paying inadequate attention to China, the Middle East and other national security flashpoints because they had become too focused on military operations and drone strikes, U.S. officials said.
Led by influential figures including new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former Sen. David Boren, D-Okla., the panel concluded in a report last year that the roles of the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of conflict.
The classified document called for the first significant shift in intelligence resources since they began flowing heavily toward counterterrorism programs and war zones after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The findings by the presidents Intelligence Advisory Board may signal a turning point in the terrorism fight. The document was distributed to senior national security officials at the White House whose public remarks in recent weeks suggest that they share some of the panels concerns.
John Brennan, Obamas former top counterterrorism adviser who was sworn in as CIA director this month, told Congress in February that he planned to evaluate the allocation of mission at the agency. He described the scope of CIA involvement in lethal operations as an aberration from its traditional role.
U.S. intelligence officials cautioned that any course adjustments are likely to be more incremental than wholesale. One reason is continued concern about the al-Qaida threat. But another is the influence accumulated by counterterrorism institutions such as the CIAs Counterterrorism Center, as they have expanded over the past decade.
Even Brennan made it clear that the CIA will not relinquish its fleet of armed drones, saying in written answers submitted to lawmakers as part of his confirmation that the agency had a long paramilitary history and must continue to be able to provide the president with this option.
Still, the advisory boards previously undisclosed report reflects a broader concern that has emerged about central aspects of the way counterterrorism operations are being prosecuted nearly 12 years after they began.
The intelligence board is made up of 14 experts, many of whom formerly held top government posts. They meet in secret and have extensive access to intelligence officials and records.
Members declined to discuss the contents of the report, citing the confidential nature of the groups work. But several expressed deep misgivings with the increasingly paramilitary missions of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Boren said the deployment of intelligence personnel and resources has become so unbalanced that it needs to be changed as dramatically as it was at the end of the Cold War.