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Intel Lawmaker Urges NRO Fixes

The builder of the nation's highly classified spy satellites, the NRO, should be getting a makeover soon, and one of the top House intelligence lawmakers says it's about time.

"We need a new charter, a new look at the NRO," Rep. Mac Thornberry, ranking member House Intelligence's technical and tactical intelligence, told me yesterday. A panel of senior intelligence gurus led by former Missile Defense Agency Director Trey Obering has put together recommendations about the new charter as well as other on other issues relating to the NRO. Thornberry called the panel's work and the prospect of change at the NRO "an opportunity we shouldn't miss."

Thornberry's subcommittee oversees the NRO, as well as the National Geospatial Intelligence Program and the NSA's Consolidated Cryptologic Program, among other things. He said he had not been briefed on the panel's findings yet.

A former government official familiar with the Obering panel's work described the new charter as "a modernizing document" that does not make dramatic changes to either the NROs responsibilities or its relationships to other parts of the government. The source would not discuss many details, noting that people like Thornberry have not yet been briefed. However, "some relationships" between the NRO and other agencies have been redefined. And we appeared to get a hint when the former government official said to "keep in that mind" that the DNI was given new roles in "setting budgets and setting requirements" in the Intelligence Reform act of 2004.

By the way, the former government urged Thornberry to request a briefing. He said the congressman might well like what he hears.

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