- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

House Republicans on Thursday walked out of a briefing by administration officials about new rules President Bush has signed for U.S. spy agencies, complaining that details had been leaked to the media before being told to Congress.

“I didn’t want to waste my time, or the time of the director of national intelligence,” Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican and ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told United Press International.

“You can’t give me a highly technical, 40-page document, 15 minutes before the briefing starts and expect me to understand what’s in it and have an intelligent discussion about it,” Mr. Hoekstra said.

The document is a revised version of one of the better-known presidential executive orders - EO 12333. The order, signed by President Reagan in 1981, laid out the structure of the sprawling and sometimes quarrelsome collection of agencies that comprise the intelligence community.

But the document, which was last amended in 2004, became outdated when Congress created the post of director of national intelligence (DNI).

The revised version of the order “clarifies the authorities granted to the DNI … in areas where he thought clarifications were necessary for him to further integrate the intelligence community,” a senior administration official told UPI. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity on a conference call arranged for reporters by the White House press office.

Among other changes, the revised order gives the DNI new powers to remove or recommend the removal of some categories of senior officials.

The order also gives the DNI authority in two areas that have traditionally been the purview of the CIA and its director: relationships with foreign intelligence services and oversight of covert actions.

It maintains the decades-old prohibitions on assassinations and using unwitting human subjects for scientific experiments.

“It is a boost for the DNI,” said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, “but not a gross departure from the status quo.”

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he supported the order’s efforts to strengthen the DNI’s authority “and end the turf wars that have plagued American intelligence,” but he also echoed Mr. Hoekstra’s frustration about the lack of consultation with Congress.

“I am deeply disappointed that the president did not seek congressional or public input into this document,” he said, adding that the committee was only shown the order “after it was complete and on its way to the president for his signature.”

Mr. Reyes pointed out that the order “will be binding on future administrations as well,” adding that the committee would study the matter “so that we can advise the next president of whether this order should remain in effect or should be repealed.”

Mr. Hoekstra said the final document had been available for at least 24 hours before the briefing, and “relatively complete drafts” had been available to “people within the executive branch” for at least eight days.

“Don’t give it to me after you’ve given it to the press,” he said. “This is the intelligence committee and they are talking to the media first. That’s wrong.”

Story Continues →