November 21, 2004


House Leadership Blocks Vote on Intelligence Bill: A core of highly conservative Republicans aligned with the Pentagon moved to block a vote on a bill that would have enacted the recommendations of the 9/11 panel. (PHILIP SHENON and CARL HULSE, 11/21/04, NY Times)

The bill would have forced the Pentagon, which controls an estimated 80 percent of the government's $40 billion intelligence budget, to cede much of its authority on intelligence issues to a national intelligence director.

"What you are seeing is the forces in favor of the status quo protecting their turf, whether it is Congress or in the bureaucracy," said Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who was the chief Senate author of the failed compromise bill, in what amounted to a slap at her Republican counterparts in the House.

The chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and the former governor of New Jersey, said that the lawmakers who blocked the vote should be held accountable by the public, and he blamed senior Pentagon officials as well.

"I think there's no question that there are people in the Pentagon who want the status quo, and they fought very hard with their allies in Congress for the status quo," Mr. Kean said. [...]

The decision to block a vote was seen by the bill's proponents and others in Congress as a surprising embarrassment to the president, who had personally intervened as late as Friday night to pressure rebellious House Republicans to agree on an intelligence bill, and to Mr. Hastert, who had signaled that he wanted the legislation and was willing to overrule the opposition from within his ranks.

Congressional officials said that Mr. Bush had telephoned a leading Republican critic of the bill, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, from Air Force One on Friday en route to a economic summit meeting in Chile to urge him to compromise.

They said a similar call was made Saturday morning by Mr. Cheney to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter of California, who has long warned that the creation of a national intelligence director could interfere with the military chain of command as American troops continue to fight in Iraq.

But the calls were to no avail, since House and Senate negotiators agreed that the continuing opposition of Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Hunter and a handful of other influential Republicans had tipped the balance for Mr. Hastert in deciding to block a vote.

If the President did want this bill in its current form--an open question--and Mr. Rumsfeld helped scuttle it, he's gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 21, 2004 10:08 AM

Yes, that's the real question -- how much does this Administration want to put military intel under the control of another director.

There are pros and cons - Odom is very clear on the cons in his book Fixing Intelligence - and I regularly talk with officers who are concerned about timely battlefield intel when/where/as they need it.

The pros include certain integrations that are virtually impossible now, the ability to deploy joint assets (especially technical ones) quickly for homeland defense and the ability to hold people more accountable.

We'll see where this goes. But I agree - if Rumsfeld was pushing against something the President wanted, he's probably out in a few months after the Iraqi elections.

Posted by: Robin Burk at November 21, 2004 11:09 AM

Curt Weldon (R-PA) is vehemently against this bill, and he is probably more influential than Sensenbrenner or Hunter.

Basically, the question is this: if the military is going to be expected to fight small wars against non-armies for the foreseeable future, who is going to give them their intelligence?

Any Secy. of Defense who supported this bill would be at least partially neutering himself. As I see it, the only purpose of such a change is to create a new potential scapegoat, rather than having to point fingers at several different fiefdoms.

Bush brought this on himself by not firing Tenet, the asst. FBI director who ran John O'Neill out of the FBI, and many others immediately after 9/11.

Now he has to play catch-up.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 21, 2004 11:58 AM

Why should any recommendations of the farcical 9/11 commission be worth anything? Perhaps some of their recommendations might be worth something, due mostly to plain dumb luck, but I'd go with the operating assumption that everything they said is politically motivated garbage.

Posted by: brian at November 21, 2004 2:24 PM

The report itself is worth reading.

The conclusions are not bad, as far as they go.

Part of the problem is that much of the 'problem' was already public knowledge.

But the commission will always be tainted by Jamie Gorelick. And by Bob Kerrey's high-tail from the White House.

Posted by: ratbert at November 21, 2004 2:45 PM

Fox News Sunday read a statement from Rummy's press secretary where he vehemently denied that he was involved in blocking the bill, mere moments after Rep. Jean Harmon (D-CA) made the accusation. Now obviously he would deny the charge whether or not it were true, but Rummy's record for candor is better than that of the liberal media just itching to ice a successful GOP cabinet member.

Posted by: MarkD at November 21, 2004 3:13 PM

Nobody should have wanted this bill.

May it rest in peace.

If only Homeland Security had been killed in similar fashion.

Posted by: kevin whited at November 21, 2004 5:09 PM

The bill deserves to die an ugly death. If Rumsfeld has to throw his body in front of it, so be it. None of us is indispensible.

If Weldon has forked it. He should be awarded a medal.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 21, 2004 6:11 PM