December 7, 2004


Deal in place to overhaul intelligence: Cheney brings sides together to revive bill (Charlie Savage and Susan Milligan, December 7, 200, Boston Globe)

The path to final passage appeared clear yesterday for the most extensive overhaul of the nation's intelligence agencies since the end of World War II, legislation that would transform them from 15 rival services created to fight communists during the Cold War into a more unified force geared to battle Islamist terror networks.

The breakthrough occurred after Vice President Dick Cheney brokered a deal with supporters of the bill, which Congress could send to President Bush as soon as this week, and dissident Republicans who objected to provisions they said would diminish the ability of the military to obtain the intelligence its forces need in battle.

Encompassing many of the recommendations the Sept. 11 commission made in July, the legislation would bring the country's 15 spy agencies under a national intelligence director, who would control their budgets and key personnel decisions. That powerful official would be given the responsibility and authority for trying to ensure that the agencies coordinate their efforts to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and its interests. On paper, the CIA director has long had the responsibility for coordinating all spy agencies, but the Defense Department and other Cabinet agencies blocked any director from ever playing that role.

Under the proposed changes, the spy services would also pool their resources to combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation in joint centers. An independent board made up of civilians would be created to monitor the impact of intelligence activities on civil liberties. Thousands of additional border patrol agents and additional space to house detained illegal immigrants would also be authorized.

Duncan Hunter, Republican of California and the House Armed Services Committee chairman, announced that he and other leaders in Congress in charge of military oversight had reached an agreement to modify the bill to ensure that wherever there is a theater of war, such as Iraq, battlefield commanders will keep direct control of the spy satellites and surveillance aircraft involved.

"We have what we think is a very satisfactory strengthening and protection of that chain of command, and we think that's going to accrue to the benefit of our troops," Hunter said. "As a result of that assurance in the conference committee, I am strongly in favor of this bill."

They showed some weeping 9-11 widows yesterday, before passage was assured, and one couldn't help think they were wasting their emotions on a bureaucratic reshuffle that addresses not a single underlying problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2004 10:11 AM
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