National Journal; "Intelligence: Lame-Duck Count: 1."
By Shane Harris
Anyone who questioned whether President Bush maintains a firm grip on the levers of national security needed only to examine last week's flurry of activity over the resurgence of Al Qaeda. Bush and his aides clearly reminded us of a historical truth: The president, any president, is the commander-in-chief and holds wide powers that do not diminish according to the calendar.
A new national intelligence estimate, part of which the administration declassified and released on July 17, concluded that Al Qaeda has regenerated itself and found sanctuary in the hinterlands of Pakistan. That's hardly news -- the president's senior intelligence advisers had been telling reporters so for months -- but the NIE, as a visible, public statement, gave White House officials a platform from which to promote Bush's counter-terrorism strategy and shape future policy.
Bush's homeland-security adviser, Frances Townsend, took to a White House podium the day the NIE was released to declare that Al Qaeda in Pakistan had effectively merged with Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group responsible for some of the most spectacular and deadly violence there. "I think there's a tendency to try and suggest that Al Qaeda core [in Pakistan] and Al Qaeda in Iraq are two separate things," she said. "It's the same organization."