Congress has threatened to reduce by one-third the funds that are used to run the office of Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet if the intelligence community fails to file dozens of overdue reports required by law within the next few months.
Calling the community's record "dismal," the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which wrote the legislation included in the fiscal 2003 intelligence authorization bill signed last week by President Bush, reported that 51 of 84 reports due by May 1, 2002, were not submitted. Eight were sent as incomplete interim reports and 18 others were provided after they were due, it said.
"In sum," the committee said in its report, "of the 84 reports required, seven were submitted by the deadline, for an overall record of 8 percent compliance."
The documents being sought cover a wide range of subjects including the priority requirements set by the president for U.S. intelligence and the activities of the U.S. intelligence community to satisfy them, an annual report on the protection of the identities of covert agents, covert leases for the community to use buildings and properties and CIA cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies.
They also cover activities of the FBI outside the United States, commercial activities carried on as cover by Pentagon intelligence agencies, safety and security of Russian nuclear facilities and forces, intelligence provided the United Nations, decisions not to prosecute violations of classified information procedures, and the hiring and retention of minority employees in the intelligence community.
Congress being Congress, the legislators added a few more reports to the list in the new bill. They included a semiannual document on seized financial assets of terrorists and searches conducted of individuals suspected of financing terrorists, another on establishment of a civilian linguist reserve corps and one assessing the effectiveness of the national security education program that provides scholarships to individuals learning needed languages.
Recognizing the plethora of reports, the legislation offered some legislative relief. Five reports were repealed, including one that required an annual disclosure of CIA personnel used as special police and another on the use of the director's authority to make special payments to those who voluntarily leave the agency. However, two of the once-annual documents that were repealed now require individual messages to be sent to Congress when covered events occur, such as what the CIA spends when it buys land.
It is unclear what part of the director's own classified office budget is at risk, since he has nonpublished funds as director of central intelligence (DCI) and as CIA director. One part of the sum that could be involved is the public $158 million that finances the intelligence community management account, which pays for the 322 individuals who serve Tenet in his role as DCI.
Whatever the amount, Tenet and his staff are taking the measure seriously. "I would not be surprised if this is not resolved shortly," a senior intelligence official said Friday. "We have been late on some but not all the required reports," he said.
He noted that some documents require substantial interagency coordination, which is made difficult "because we don't want to take away from fighting the war against terrorism."
He added that some reports "were of questionable value" and others had "unrealistic deadlines," but that the intelligence community was "beefing up the processes" to complete documents in timely and acceptable ways. "There are ongoing talks with [intelligence] committee staffs to determine which are the most important and which may no longer be useful or necessary," he said.
The official noted that since January, the community has had 1,300 meetings, briefings and hearings with members of Congress and their staffs, not including the House-Senate committee inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
"That's a lot of contact and a load of information, without the reports," he said.