The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.), has asked for jurisdiction over provisions of intelligence charter legislation affecting the FBI:
Aides to Rodino said he took the step after FBI Director William H. Webster acknowledged in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that the proposed charter would allow the FBI to disrupt domestic groups suspected of ties to a foreign power.
"We're going to take a close look at it," said Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.), chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights. He said there is nothing in another proposed charter governing the FBI's law enforcement work -- which is already before the Judiciary Committee -- that would permit such activities.
Webster conceded that the intelligence charter would permit the FBI to employ disinformation campaigns and other counterintelligence tactics against U.S. persons or groups suspected of clandestine intelligence work on behalf of a foreign power. But he said he doubted that methods reminiscent of the FBIs controversial COINTELPRO program of the 1960s and early 1970s would be resurrected no matter how the intelligence charter bill turns out.
The legislation, initially proposed in the Senate, was introduced on the House side by Rep. Edward Boland (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which began hearings last week.
Rodino asked that provisions affecting the FBI be referred to his committee after the Intelligence Committee completes its work. A spokesman for Rodino said a reply has yet to be received from House parliamentarians.