The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday proposed a sweeping legislative package that would for the first time restructure and centralize the U.S. intelligence apparatus and close some of the loopholes that led to past abuses.
The proposed legislation is the first comprehensive congressional attempt to bring the sprawling intelligence community under one roof since much of it was set up under the 1947 National Security Act.
In addition to establishing an administrative framework under CIA Director Stansfield Turner as "Director of National Intelligence," the new bill would provide a series of checks by Congress, the National Security Council and the president on U.S. intelligence activities at home and abroad.
At a news conference Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), chairman of the intelligence committee, called the proposed legislation and other recent steps to codify national intelligence "the most significant protection of American liberty since the Bill of Rights itself."
The committee's legislative package closely parallels President Carter's Jan. 24 executive order reorganizing the intelligence agencies on an interim basis while the Senate committee finished its bill.
The seven-part, 200-page document prohibits certain types of covert action by the CIA such as "assassination, terrorism, torture, the mass destruction of property, creation of food or water shortages, or epidemics, the overthrow of democratic governments or the support of actions which violate human rights by police, foreign intelligence or internal security forces of foreign countries."
A committee spokesman said the CIA's involvement in overthrowing nondemocratic nations is not prohibited by the bill.
The new legislation would allow intelligence agency bugging and breakins under certain circumstances when they are approved by Congress and the president.
It also would put Congress in the unique position of considering a law which would authorize the attorney general, the top legal official in the nation, to grant an intelligence agency permission to violate federal law.
That could happen if the Intelligence agency promised not to commit an act of violence or violate another part of the new legislation. Requests could be made to the attorney general in cases of espionage, terrorism or assassination.
Among the portions of he congressional bill that go beyond the president's intelligence executive order are:
Granting the FBI statutory intelligence agency status, which it now lacks. This new status would put the lacks. This new status would put the FBI under the same umbrella of legislative restrictions proposed for other intelligence agencies. An exception is the bureau's controversial domestic intelligence activities, which are the subject of a separate intelligence committee bill now being prepared.
Protection for U.S. citizens and resident aliens, in the United States and abroad, from electronic eavesdripping or mail opening by intelligence agencies without a court order based on criminal identification. Now, the attorney general can authorize surveillance in the United States without a court order on national security grounds.
A formal charter for the supersecret national Security agency making it accountable to Congress for the first time since President Truman created the agency under a secret 1952 order.
THe committee dropped from its bill any mention of making public the U.S. intelligence budget and apparently compromised in two other areas which have been the subject of recent bad publicity for the intelligence community.
Intelligence agencies would be allowed to continue experiments on humans. But under the bill any subject of experiments must give the same type of informed consent as is required of all other government agencies.
News representatives and clergy would be barred from accepting pay for intelligence assignments under the bill but not stopped from working voluntarily for intelligence agencies.
The committee's proposal also bans any federal employe from knowingly revealing identity of an undercover intelligence agent if the agent could be harmed.That section, committee staffers said, was designed to prevent repetition of the case of PHilip Agee, the former CIA agent who identified a number of active agents in a book after he left the CIA.