Bush's latest mortgage on national security


Mark Follman
November 25, 2004 4:57AM (UTC)

It appears that President Bush's "evolving" position on how to fix the dilapidated U.S. intelligence system includes grabbing a few extra bucks from the brimming federal till.

"President Bush has ordered what may be a major expansion of the CIA, calling for the beleaguered agency to add thousands of analysts and spies as part of an ongoing buildup in the war on terrorism, according to a White House memorandum released Tuesday," the LA Times reports. "But the directive set no timetable for the changes and offered no indication that the White House intended to ask Congress for the massive funding increase such a plan would require."

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One unnamed U.S. intelligence official told the Times that the 50 percent targets are significantly higher than anything previously articulated by the administration. "The question becomes, When?" the official said, "and there doesn't seem to be any time frame."

Meanwhile, a senior Bush administration official, according to the Times, cautioned against interpreting the memo as a shift in policy or a preview of new budget requests. The official called it more of a "refocusing" and said that some of the growth could be covered with existing money. "It's fair for us to say that since 9/11, and during the president's first administration, these budgets have grown significantly," the official said.

Well, that's a relief. And will some of that "existing money" also help cover the cost of the Iraq war, which also keeps ballooning?

As one former CIA official told the Times, boosting the agency's analytic and spying ranks by 50 percent would take years and a massive infusion of money to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more.

That may very well be an appropriate plan for revamping the ailing CIA. But you gotta think that at some point the president's faithful economic adviser would have to tap him on the shoulder for a little talk about reconciling massive tax cuts with wanton mortgaging of the federal budget -- especially as pertains to urgent issues of national security.

Oh, right. He already fired that guy a long time ago.

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Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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