By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 23, 2005
Senate Republicans late Wednesday blocked the authorization bill that guides the country's intelligence programs. It was the first time in 27 years that the bill had failed to pass before the end of the calendar year.
The Republican "hold" on the bill blocked what was a planned adoption by unanimous consent. The bill will now wait for Congress to return from its winter recess in late January. "An anonymous Republican placed a hold on the bill and prevented the Senate from working its will," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday in a statement on the floor. "As a result, the bill can't go forward."
Reid said the delay meant that "vital intelligence operations are on hold while the bill languishes." But congressional and intelligence community sources said it would not affect current intelligence programs, which are also guided by defense authorizations and appropriations.
Democrats were informed last week that Republicans would clear the bill if three amendments, two by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and one by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), would be stripped from the consent agreement.
But Democrats balked because Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, had agreed to the amendments. Roberts's staff did not return calls for comment yesterday.
Kerry's amendment would require the director of national intelligence to give the intelligence panels information on secret CIA prisons in several Eastern European democracies and in Asia.
Kennedy's amendments would require the White House to turn over copies of daily intelligence briefs that President Bush and former President Bill Clinton reviewed on Iraq.
Democrats have accused administration officials of exaggerating Iraq's weapons capabilities and terrorism ties to win public support for the war. No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
Bush has argued that Congress and the Clinton administration had access to the same intelligence that he pointed to in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion. A congressional report made public last week concluded that Bush and his inner circle had access to more intelligence and reviewed more sensitive material than what was shared with Congress.