National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, with the blessing of the White House, will rewrite the Reagan-era executive order that defines the function of the United States’ many spy agencies and prohibits espionage against Americans. While critics concede that the order is out of date, they worry that an administration with a fondness for spying on its own might seize the opportunity to trample on a few civil liberties.
Some officials familiar with Intelligence Director Mike McConnell’s plans, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the deliberations remain internal, said his intent is solely to update the policy to reflect changes in the intelligence community since Sept. 11, 2001, including the creation of his own office.
But other officials, who also spoke on condition they not be identified, said opening the order to changes could lead well beyond that. They said the exercise could threaten civil liberties protections approved by President Reagan following intelligence abuses in the 1970s, and that intelligence agencies will be tempted to expand their powers.
McConnell himself has said the authority of his office needs to be adjusted. “We don’t have it right yet,” he told an audience in April.