Bush may act on proposals

CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush plans to begin making decisions about restructuring the nation’s intelligence machinery within days and could enact some changes by executive order or regulatory action without waiting for Congress, White House officials said Sunday.

Aides suggested for the first time that despite the opposition of some in the administration, Bush is headed toward backing some variation of the Sept. 11 commission’s call for a national intelligence director who would report directly to the president. Some White House officials have questioned whether the intelligence director would be considered independent if the position was under White House control. Aides said Bush is considering mechanisms to make the job less political, such as a term that does not overlap the president’s.

The commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center delivered its recommendations for a sweeping overhaul of intelligence agencies on Thursday, and aides said Bush began reading the report Friday as he flew to his ranch to spend the week of the Democratic National Convention. Bush will discuss the options with his national security team on a secure videoconference link Monday, a White House official said.

“We will move on all fronts very aggressively in the coming days and weeks,” the official said. “We’re going to focus on all the recommendations and determine which ones can be done through executive branch action. The president said he wants this on a fast track.”

The urgent pace, and the White House’s willingness to discuss it, reflects the realization by Bush’s aides that he is now vulnerable to charges that he could have done more to protect the nation against terrorism, when claiming leadership on the issue was central to his re-election strategy, Republican advisers said.

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, released his plans for intelligence reform six days ahead of the commission report, and he plans to argue at the convention that he would be more effective than Bush at guarding the nation against terrorism.

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