With Senate power sharing in force, Sens. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.) are nonetheless struggling over how to organize the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
While the committee has a long history of at least nominal bipartisanship going all the way back to its formation in 1976, Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Graham are trying to define what bipartisanship means when each party has eight members on the panel.
Graham is looking for parity, wanting his own counsel and four additional staffers so that both parties have the same representation on a staff that now numbers about 30.
Shelby favors the status quo from last session, in which each party has only two designated staff members -- majority and minority staff directors and their deputies -- and everyone else works as part of a nominally bipartisan staff, including a general counsel appointed by Shelby.
One casualty of the impasse is Melvin Dubee, a counternarcotics specialist who had been serving as the Democrats' deputy staff director. Because Graham has placed Bob Filippone from his office staff in the position, Dubee was let go, in the absence of any agreement that might have provided him another slot on the staff.
Shelby's bottom line: If Graham wants to alter the committee's traditional bipartisan structure, he can go to the Senate floor and get 51 votes for a new organizational resolution. Graham's response: He isn't after partisanship, only parity.
SATELLITE WOES: A new report by the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) scheduled for release today concludes that U.S. commercial satellite makers lost $1.2 billion in contracts and 1,000 jobs last year because of increased foreign competition and stiffer export controls.
Those stiffer controls took effect in March 1999 after Congress, citing concerns over national security, transferred control of commercial satellite exports from the export-friendly Commerce Department back to the State Department. In transferring jurisdiction, Congress reversed an earlier shift by the Clinton administration, which moved export control from State to Commerce in 1994 at the satellite industry's behest.
Shifting control back to State in 1999 came while two leading U.S. satellite makers -- Hughes Space & Communications Co. and Loral Space & Communications Ltd. -- were under criminal investigation for allegedly passing sensitive information to the Chinese relating to the failure of Chinese rockets carrying Hughes and Loral satellites. Neither company, however, has been charged with criminal wrongdoing.
"The study indicates that U.S. companies failed to capture at least half of the publicly announced orders for commercial telecommunications satellites since the shift in export control authority took place," according to an SIA statement. "California satellite manufacturers reported that they're spending 400 to 500 percent more time and resources to comply with State Department export control procedures."
SIA Executive Director Clayton Mowry called on Congress and the Bush administration to get rid of unnecessary federal regulations. "The regulations are clearly having a negative impact," Mowry said. "Nothing less than our national security is at stake as the Pentagon is increasingly reliant on U.S. commercial satellites for its global communications needs."
PENNILESS IN SEATTLE: A federal judge in Seattle has again denied a CIA motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two Soviet bloc defectors who claim the agency has reneged on a promise to provide them with health benefits and a $27,000 annual stipend for life.
After initially ruling last year that the CIA may have violated the married couple's due process rights by cutting off their stipend after the husband found employment, Judge Robert S. Lasnik held last week that the agency's conduct may constitute "deliberate indifference" to the couple's well-being.
Lasnik also chastised the CIA for claiming not to know, in its initial motion to dismiss, that a federal statute known as PL-110 created a formal program for the director of central intelligence to bring as many as 100 defectors a year into the country and grant them immediate citizenship when it "is in the interest of national security or essential to the furtherance of the national intelligence mission."
"Now, they acknowledge not only the existence of PL-110, but also the existence of CIA internal regulations concerning the PL-110 program and the financial benefits accorded to defectors," Lasnik wrote in a Jan. 22 order.