- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

House Republican leaders yesterday introduced a bill to restructure the nation’s intelligence bureaucracy, drawing heavily on such September 11 commission recommendations as the creation of a new national intelligence director and counterterrorism center.

The bill largely follows a proposal put forward by President Bush and a companion Senate bill, which had its markup finished Wednesday. The House proposal is set for committee markups next week and is expected to be merged with the Senate version and voted on before the Nov. 2 election.

Speaking with reporters at the Capitol yesterday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, described the bill as “comprehensive” and said House leaders were introducing it “working with the bipartisan leadership of our committees.”

However, partisan wrangling became public yesterday, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, leading the charge.

“Instead of acting in a bipartisan manner, the Republican leadership is introducing a bill, written behind closed doors, that attempts to score partisan points and goes far outside the recommendations of the 9/11 commission,” she said.

“Unbelievably, the Republicans claim to have introduced a bipartisan bill, as Senate leaders have done,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “It is simply not true.”

A full version of the bill was not immediately available yesterday, although a table of contents handed out to reporters included the handwritten title: “The 9/11 Commission Implementation Act.”

“There is a lot of political pressure on us to get this done yesterday,” said one congressional aide involved with drafting the legislation.

Rep. Jim Turner, Texas Democrat and the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said “the Senate bill was crafted in a bipartisan manner and covers the full range of the 9/11 commission recommendations.”

“Unfortunately, the House Republican bill, which was crafted without any bipartisan consultations, falls far short of the mark,” he said. “We will take every opportunity to improve this legislation to ensure that it does justice to the vital work of the 9/11 commission.”

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, meanwhile, lauded the bill, saying it “represents the best work of the 9/11 commission and of Congress itself.”

Mr. Davis, who wrote portions of the legislation, said it “creates a nimble, effective, flat structure for the national intelligence director and the National Counterterrorism Center … and at all times remains true to the 9/11 commission report.”

While he said the bill reflects the recommendations of the commission, Mr. Hastert acknowledged it “doesn’t do everything the commission wants.”

Specifically, it does not call for making the nation’s overall intelligence budget public, he said.

“In the past, liberal Democrats have sought to publicize that number in order to increase the pressure to cut intelligence spending in order to pay for other spending,” Mr. Hastert said. “I believe that telling our enemies how much we spend on certain intelligence programs diminishes our national security.”

A key issue unlikely to be resolved until the multiple intelligence reform proposals now on the table are merged is the amount of control the new national intelligence director (NID) will have over the budgets of the nation’s 15 intelligence agencies.

Specifically at issue are intelligence agencies that exclusively serve the Department of Defense.

Congressional aides yesterday said that like President Bush’s proposal, the House bill calls for the NID to have full authority over all intelligence agencies, except for ones “tactically supporting” U.S. troops, such as Army or Air Force intelligence.

The rest, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency, would fall under the budgetary control of the NID.

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