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US intelligence agencies make headway on reform

Despite concerns about turf wars, a new intelligence director and a rising number of analysts hint at change.

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The Pentagon recently hosted a meeting of intelligence-community officials to address ways to combat IEDs - the improvised explosive devices that insurgents have used so effectively to kill and maim US forces in Iraq.

One speaker mentioned that the intelligence community could play a bigger role in aiding the military. In addition to gleaning information through penetrating groups and electronic eavesdropping, roles the CIA traditionally plays, he saw a need for good, old-fashioned law-enforcement work, such as the FBI would perform in this country. A tail could be placed on a bad guy, for instance, which could follow him from a warehouse to a mosque and to the culvert where he inserts an IED.

"The FBI is doing forensics, but forensics designed to look at patterns, how they get deployed. It's an interesting innovation," says Gregory Treverton, the intelligence expert from the RAND Corp. who attended the Pentagon meeting."If you want the FBI to become a prevention outfit, it's better to prevent abroad than at home, so the logic goes. Now you have the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon working together on [IEDs] right now."

This is one example of how the arms of the intelligence apparatus are breaking out of past patterns - secretive, compartmented work - to link together in a more inclusive, collaborative way. This is partly due, experts say, to the 9/11 attacks alone. But it is also because of the 9/11 commission's scathing report on intelligence failures, and the ensuing legislation signed into law last December by President Bush.

"You get a sense some progress is being made moving across the federal agencies," says Elaine Kamarck, an expert on intelligence reorganization at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.

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