By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The House overwhelmingly approved the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill yesterday, eliminating from the measure language that would have limited authority of the new director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, to transfer employees to new duties.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement that the bill will for the first time "prioritize the programs under the management" of Negroponte and implement the intelligence reorganization legislation that passed in December.
The amount of funding provided by the measure, which passed 409 to 16, is classified but is estimated to be $42 billion. It funds the CIA; Pentagon intelligence agencies; the FBI's intelligence, counterterrorism and counterintelligence units; as well as agencies involved in intelligence within the State, Treasury, Energy and Homeland Security departments.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) had Hoekstra include language in the bill barring Negroponte from transferring employees in intelligence agencies without prior approval of congressional committees, which some lawmakers considered an unacceptable restriction on Negroponte's authority. Earlier this month, Hunter agreed to have that provision removed after Negroponte pledged to consult him before making transfers.
The bill made significant cuts in the funding sought by the Bush administration for new high-tech intelligence-collecting satellites, officials said, transferring some of that money to increase spending on human intelligence and analysis, programs that were encouraged by former CIA director George J. Tenet and by the current director, Porter J. Goss, when he was chairman of the House intelligence panel.
Yesterday Hoekstra said: "A tremendous amount of information can be obtained through technological means. However, U.S. intelligence must enhance its capabilities in a broad range of foreign languages and better analyze the vast amounts of data collected."
Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, called the measure "the strongest intelligence authorization bill to emerge from the House intelligence committee in recent memory." But she warned that the "sudden, drastic cuts to certain programs" in the technical systems area, which cannot be detailed publicly because they are classified, "may lead to a gap in our intelligence capabilities."
Democrats tried to amend the bill to institute investigations into allegations of abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but were voted down by the Rules Committee before the measure reached the House floor.
Harman said yesterday, however, that she was "encouraged" by what she described as "a serious bipartisan investigation" that has begun in the House intelligence panel's new oversight subcommittee.
She said it would cover "abuses that have occurred," not only at Guantanamo Bay but also at any facilities run by elements of the intelligence community. Nonetheless, she said during the House debate that she still supports a broader bipartisan look at detention policies "so that our efforts to fight the terrorists don't become a moral black eye for America that undermines our security."