Bush expands role for national intelligence chief

President George W Bush's new executive order revising rules for intelligence agencies expands the national intelligence director's powers and may further erode the CIA's traditional autonomy. The order, revised in secret and signed Wednesday, is drawing criticism from civil liberties groups and even lawmakers from the president's own party. House Republicans on the intelligence committee walked out of a Thursday morning briefing by the national intelligence director, Mike McConnell, on the order to protest what they consider the White House's pattern of disrespect for congressional oversight. The committee believes it has not been consulted or informed about critical intelligence matters. These include the executive order; Israel's bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear facility last summer; changes in U.S. intelligence on Iran; the administration's warrantless wiretapping program; and the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes. "This president is making it impossible for Congress to do oversight of the intelligence community," the committee's top Republican, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, told The Associated Press. "The only effective oversight that can be done is out of the executive branch. And this is the fox guarding the chicken coop." The revisions to an executive order first issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 reflect organizational changes in the intelligence agencies after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush's order lays out the relationships among 16 intelligence agencies.