- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Republicans yesterday said it still was possible to get a bill passed by Congress to establish a national intelligence director and called on President Bush to continue weighing in strongly with the measure’s opponents.

Eleventh-hour negotiations continued yesterday between the White House and members of Congress in an effort to produce legislative language that would satisfy two groups of Republican holdouts in time for a bill to be considered in a preholiday session of Congress this week.

“It all depends on whether the president decides to use his chips,” said Reagan-era Navy Secretary John L. Lehman, one of the Republicans on the 10-member September 11 commission, which in July recommended the creation of a single, senior-level post to take charge of the nation’s 15 intelligence agencies.

After an unprecedented series of summer hearings, both chambers of Congress passed different bills creating such a post and giving effect to other commission recommendations, but since then, negotiations on a single, combined piece of legislation have been stalled.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, has said he is worried that the bill might interfere with the military chain of command by giving the new director too much authority over the intelligence assets used by the Department of Defense to get battlefield information to troops.

At the same time, many Republican members of the House, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, say the bill does not do enough to secure the nation against the threat posed by illegal immigration.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said opponents should put national security ahead of Pentagon worries.

“They have to understand something: The primary user of intelligence is not the military. … It is the president of the United States and the National Security Council, and it is the Congress of the United States,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The bill’s supporters on both sides of the aisle say the chain-of-command issue, which has focused on control of satellites that gather strategic intelligence, is a red herring.

California Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN: “Present law provides … that the director of central intelligence controls these defense satellites, except for the tactical satellites, which are controlled by the battlefield commanders.”

“Everyone except Hunter understands that this bill does not change the chain of command,” added a Republican member of Congress close to the negotiations, who asked not to be named. “He’s created this straw man.”

The congressman said the bill’s supporters were going “yet another mile” to try to assuage Mr. Hunter’s concerns.

“We’ll find out soon enough if he really wants a bill, because if he doesn’t, there will not be a form of language to satisfy him.”

Mr. Hunter’s spokesman said the concern was genuine.

“This issue was first raised by the White House,” Hunter aide Harald Stavenas said. “The House listened, and the Senate didn’t.”

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