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Getting Smart on Intelligence Reform

After eight years of controversy, some Democratic lawmakers and legal scholars seek a thorough investigation of the Bush administration's approach to intelligence gathering. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tells Newsweek pressure for an inquiry into interrogation practices is mounting. Yale law professor Jack M. Balkin, meanwhile, says the future of U.S. democracy depends on unearthing the truth (NYT). President-elect Barack Obama, for his part, has left open the door for a probe of the Bush years. "We have not made final decisions," he told ABC News. But Obama says he is intent on focusing on the future "as opposed [to] looking at what we got wrong in the past."

As the list of challenges (Reuters) awaiting him suggests, the future of intelligence reform will require Obama's undivided attention. Osama bin Laden remains free, concerns over Iranian nuclear ambitions are mounting, and non-state actors--al-Qaeda chief among them--continue to plot against the United States (PDF). But Obama will also be under pressure to reform an intelligence apparatus critics say has been plagued by poor leadership and a lack of cooperation. Specifically, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has come under fire. Created to address past intelligence failures as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, critics contend ODNI has instead micromanaged agencies and, in the case of overseas spy operations, sought to muscle in on turf (AP) historically belonging to the CIA. Former CIA acting deputy director of operations Jack Devine argues the creation of ODNI has failed to deliver (WashPost) on its promise of streamlining and reform. DNI officials, meanwhile, counter that the...

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