On February 13, 2001, George W. Bush, three weeks in the Oval Office, issued his first official White House document pertaining to national security.  The document, called a National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD), partly reorganized the National Security Council, which had been established by President Truman in 1947 and put into the Executive Branch in 1949.

Bush’s NSPD memorandum is addressed to all members of the Cabinet, several economic advisors, White House personnel, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and some officials concerned with security—41 people in all, with the Vice President at the top of the list: 

SUBJECT: Organization of the National Security Council System:

This document is the first in a series of National Security Presidential Directives.  National Security Presidential Directives shall replace both Presidential Decision Directives and Presidential Review Directives as an instrument for communicating presidential decisions about the national security policies of the United States.

The NSPD redefined “security” with a heavier emphasis on economic matters:

National security includes the defense of the United States of America, protection of our constitutional system of government, and the advancement of [U.S.] interests around the globe.  National security also depends on America’s opportunity to prosper in the world economy.

The National Security Act of 1947, as amended, established the National Security Council to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to national security.  That remains its purpose.

Now, the memo continued,

The NSC shall advise and assist me in integrating all aspects of national security policy as it affects the United States—domestic, foreign, military, intelligence, and economics (in conjunction with the National Economic Council (NEC)).

The new priorities are fairly clear.  “[R]egular attendees (both statutory and non-statutory)” at NSC meetings still include “the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs,” along with the CIA director and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.  However, the attorney general and “The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, shall be invited to attend meetings of the NSC [only] when appropriate.”  The White House chief of staff (Andrew Card) and the assistant to the President for economic policy (then Larry Lindsey), by contrast, “are invited to attend any NSC meeting.”

The NSPD also boosted National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s place in the food chain.  Rice, also three weeks in office, was slated to attend all NSC meetings and was

responsible, at my direction and in consultation with the other regular attendees of the NSC, for determining the agenda, ensuring that necessary papers are prepared, and recording NSC actions and Presidential decisions.

Rice, however, does not have to carry the ball alone if commercial matters arise:

When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy shall perform these tasks in concert.

Rice was also deputed to chair meetings of the NSC Principals Committee, which from then on would deal with international economic matters as well as security concerns.  Adding greater weight to Rice’s office, the NSPD directs that meetings of the NSC Deputies Committee be chaired by Rice’s deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, who was designated with the responsibility for calling the deputies’ meetings.

In the interest of consolidating, 

Management of the development and implementation of national security policies by multiple agencies of the United States Government shall usually be accomplished by the NSC Policy Coordination Committees (NSC/PCCs).  The NSC/PCCs shall be the main day-to-day fora for interagency coordination of national security policy.

Regrettably, in light of Hadley’s role in inserting the false claims that Iraq attempted to obtain uranium from Niger into the President’s 2003 State of the Union address, these committees were organized by region, with the committees for Near East and North Africa separate from those for Europe and Eurasia, which were both separate from those for the Western Hemisphere, with no regional committee for the United States or North America.

Eleven separate committees were also established to deal with “functional topics,” including “Counter-Terrorism and National Preparedness.”  This committee was also chaired by Rice, along with six other committees, including “Arms Control,” “Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence,” and “Records Access and Information Security.”  Rice also designated each committee’s executive secretary, who schedules meetings and determines agendas.

In light of September 11, a single sentence is perhaps the most dramatic statement in the NSPD: “The existing system of Interagency Working Groups is abolished.”

Thus ended, with one stroke of the pen, the chief existing structural mechanism for coordinating information among federal agencies—including the intelligence agencies, transportation, and immigration.

Except for those established by statute, other existing NSC interagency groups, ad hoc bodies, and executive committees are also abolished as of March 1, 2001, unless they are specifically reestablished as subordinate working groups within the new NSC system as of that date.

The continued existence of any working groups would be up to Rice:

Cabinet officers, the heads of other executive agencies, and the directors of offices within the Executive Office of the President shall advise the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs of those specific NSC interagency groups chaired by their respective departments or agencies that are either mandated by statute or are otherwise of sufficient importance and vitality as to warrant being reestablished.  In each case the Cabinet officer, agency head, or office director should describe the scope of the activities proposed for or now carried out by the interagency group, the relevant statutory mandate if any, and the particular NSC/PCC that should coordinate this work.

There is one exception to this overall pattern: “The Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee established in E.O. 12870 shall continue its work . . . ”

Other coordination, however, was replaced by the new organization: 

As to those committees expressly established in the National Security Act, the NSC/PC and/or NSC/DC shall serve as those committees and perform the functions assigned to those committees by the Act.

This NSPD was publicly released March 13, 2001, the same date a minisymposium was held in Laurel, Maryland, on “homeland security,” partly sponsored by Analytic Services, Inc. (ANSER), the company for which Hadley had served as a trustee.  ANSER had formed a think tank and consulting operation called the “Homeland Security Institute” back in spring 1999 and was heavily invested in pushing the idea of a “second Pearl Harbor” as a slogan for the military-intelligence establishment, both before and after September 11, 2001.

Given this history, it is ironic to see Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley now taking the knife in the ribs for President Bush’s bogus Iraq pronouncements.  Both are perceived as so controlled by the Bush political team that no one around the globe believes statements issued by either one.  Other writers have pointed out that Hadley, despite his demurrers about the infamous “Niger uranium” ploy, used this rhetorical trope himself in February 2003, well after the October 2002 time frame in which he admits he knew it to be spurious.

There is a greater irony, however, in hearing the consensus expressed by those who issued the September 11 report on national security, in which they identified a lack of information sharing or coordination among key agencies.  How could the White House ever have thought that abolishing the interagency work groups was a good idea, if security was the objective?  Why was so much responsibility placed on the shoulders of one person, Condoleezza Rice, whose previous experience had been at Stanford University and Chevron?  Why was national security blended with commerce?

Above all, why was virtually total control of national security taken over and revamped by a politically preoccupied White House?