Friday, May 4, 2007

Senior House Republicans are complaining about Democrats’ plans to divert “scarce” intelligence funds to study global warming.

The House next week will consider the Democrat-crafted Intelligence Authorization bill, which includes a provision directing an assessment of the effects that climate change has on national security.

“Our job is to steal secrets,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“There are all kinds of people analyzing global warming, the Democrats even have a special committee on this,” he told The Washington Times. “There’s no value added by the intelligence community here; they have no special expertise, and this takes money and resources away from other threats.”

Democrats, who outnumber Republicans on the committee, blocked the minority from stripping the warming language from the bill.

Intelligence panel Chairman Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, said the climate-change study is one of several shifts his party has made to intelligence policy.

“We’re concerned that global warming might impact our ability to maintain national security,” he told The Times, describing the idea as “cutting edge.”

“We want to get feedback from the intelligence community to understand if there are possible global issues,” Mr. Reyes said, noting the change was on the advice of “several former military commanders.”

The panel voted 11-9 to keep the provision that directs a National Intelligence Estimate “on the anticipated geopolitical effects of global climate change and the implications of such effects on the national security of the United States,” according to a Republican staffer familiar with the bill.

The study, which so far has an undetermined cost, would examine the science of climate change, among other things. Few details about its method were available, but the staffer said it would “divert already scarce resources to study the climate.”

The staffer added that the U.S. already tried using intelligence resources for this purpose in the 1990s.

“There are other parts of the government better suited to doing this type of study,” agreed Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican. “Our government should not commit expensive spy satellites and human intelligence sources to target something as undefined as the environment.”

The Clinton administration’s Director of Central Intelligence created the DCI Environmental Center in 1997 to examine environmental issues.

In 1999, President Clinton announced he was declassifying satellite images of Antarctica captured by the intelligence community under an initiative to make public previously classified data.

A Clinton White House press release outlines Vice President Al Gore’s role in making sure that 59 satellite images of the Arctic were released to “help scientists better understand the interaction between polar ice caps and global warming.”

“Together with data gathered on the ground, the newly released images will help scientists better understand ecological dynamics in this extreme environment and their response to climate change,” the release read.

Several Republicans trotted out the statistic that the government already spends $6.5 billion annually on global-warming related issues through several agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But Mr. Reyes said the provision “makes sense” because of the growing international concern over climate change. “We think it’s time,” he said.

Republicans were critical yesterday after The Times first reported the provision on its Web site.

“It’s hard to imagine how anyone could believe that climate change represents a more clear and present danger to the United States than radical Islamic terrorists armed with bombs, but that’s essentially what Democrats have concluded in this bill,” said Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday or Thursday on the overall authorization measure, which identifies how intelligence appropriations can be spent in 2008. It is not clear whether Democrats will allow Republicans to offer amendments to the bill.

Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass its Intelligence Authorization bill.

Mr. Reyes lauded his panel’s work on the bill, noting that it will lead to “stronger, better intelligence,” especially by adding money for human intelligence training and for sending analysts abroad.

For the first time, the bill will fund a “baseline” for intelligence activities related to terrorism and Iraq, he said.

He also said it will strengthen counterintelligence, enhance oversight and eliminate wasteful spending.

The completed bill, mostly considered behind closed doors because it includes sensitive information, passed the committee on a voice vote after a more-than-eight-hour markup session. Observers characterized the hearing as “chaotic and contentious.”

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