WASHINGTON -- President Bush, embracing nearly all the recommendations of a White House commission, said yesterday that he is creating a national security service at the FBI to specialize in intelligence as part of a shake-up of the disparate US spy agencies.
A fact sheet describing the White House's broad acceptance of changes said three recommendations are under review and a fourth, which remained classified, was rejected.
Bush also issued an executive order allowing the freezing of any financial assets in the United States of people, companies, or organizations involved in the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The order designates eight organizations in Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Americans also are barred from doing business with them.
''This really is intended to take what we've found to be a very effective tool against terrorism targets . . . and expand that to counterproliferation targets," said Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend.
Treasury Secretary John Snow said the order sends a message that ''if you deal in weapons of mass destruction, you're not going to use the US financial system to bankroll or facilitate your activities."
Many of the intelligence changes deal with the bureaucracy. But Townsend said it was not just a reshuffling of boxes but a ''fundamental strengthening" of intelligence agencies.
Those changes include directing the Justice Department to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage, and intelligence units. Bush also will ask Congress to create an assistant attorney general position to centralize those operations. Bush wrote in a memo to intelligence leaders that ''further prompt action is necessary" at the Justice Department and FBI to address security challenges.
FBI director Robert S. Mueller III will share authority for choosing the head of the new service with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who also will have a say in the unit's budget.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, appearing with Mueller at a news conference, addressed concerns that the new service would be a domestic spy agency that would answer to Negroponte. ''Every law enforcement official within the FBI is going to remain under the supervision of the FBI director and, ultimately, the attorney general," Gonzales said.
In March, a nine-member commission led by Republican Laurence Silberman, a judge on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and former Senator Charles Robb, Democrat of Virginia, presented a scathing 600-page report about US intelligence agencies and their ability to understand and protect against weapons of mass destruction.
Robb said it was ''truly extraordinary" that Bush accepted so many of the commission's proposals.
Bush asked for the review in early 2004 after it became clear that prewar intelligence on Iraq was flawed. After a 13-month investigation, the commission concluded the intelligence community was ''dead wrong" in almost all of its prewar findings on Iraq's arsenal. Those critiques followed several others of the intelligence community since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the botched Iraq intelligence estimates.
As a result, numerous changes had already been ordered by Congress, the White House, and within government agencies. Many were contained in an intelligence overhaul passed by Congress in December, which created a national intelligence director to oversee the 15 US intelligence agencies.