By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
The CIA would be given authority to coordinate all human intelligence activities overseas, including those carried out by Pentagon and FBI personnel, under legislation proposed by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill.
At a time when the CIA appears to be losing its preeminence in clandestine operations abroad, the House panel suggested language in the bill that it said was designed to clarify roles of the CIA director and the new director of national intelligence (DNI) regarding the collection of human intelligence outside the United States "by any department, agency or element" of the U.S. government.
In the past, the CIA has exercised similar authority in most cases, but the House panel decided to try to put that into law as a result of increased overseas operations by many government agencies, and reports that several Pentagon teams had been found operating overseas without the knowledge of CIA officials.
Under the House committee proposal, CIA Director Porter J. Goss would develop a process for coordinating clandestine human intelligence activities overseas, but it would be "subject to the approval of the DNI," John D. Negroponte, according to the panel's report, made available yesterday.
The House panel also revived a proposal that would limit Negroponte's authority to transfer Pentagon or other intelligence specialists within the intelligence community. Under the current law, Negroponte must provide prompt notice of any transfer only to the appropriate congressional committees.
Under the proposal, he could not make such a transfer until he had informed the committees with proper jurisdiction, "and received a response."
Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking minority member on the committee, and other Democrats described the proposal as "a pocket veto" of the DNI's personnel transfer authority in additional views printed in the report. They said they opposed the provision and noted that when the same language was proposed in the Defense Department's fiscal 2006 authorization bill in March, a DNI spokesman opposed it.
Harman and the others warned that if the provision is not changed, they will move to strike it when the bill reaches the House floor, "and we believe we will be successful."
In another action, the House panel said it made "significant" reductions in "expensive technical collection systems," which congressional sources described as new large satellites. Money saved from redirecting satellite spending was aimed at increasing "human intelligence and analysis," the committee said in its report.
The panel said the intelligence community "has resisted terminating even badly flawed major systems acquisitions," a reference to multibillion-dollar satellites that in the past have been criticized by members of the Senate intelligence committee.
The panel report, which keeps classified the overall amount proposed for next year's intelligence activities -- said to be in excess of $41 billion -- does note authorizing $446 million in an account that is to be the "principal source of funding" for Negroponte's new team. The Congressional Budget Office estimates $268 million in costs next year, according to the House panel report.