The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence agreed yesterday to strike language he approved last week on the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill that would have limited the authority of the new director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, to transfer CIA, Pentagon, FBI or other intelligence specialists within the community.
The House Rules Committee, meeting late yesterday, delayed taking action on which amendments could come up for votes when the measure reaches the House floor.
The turnabout by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) came in the face of public opposition not just from Democrats on the House panel, led by Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), but also from Negroponte's organization.
"We have seen the amendment [and] we would be concerned with any legislation that undercuts the letter and spirit of the intelligence reform bill passed only months ago," the DNI office said in a statement yesterday.
Under that bill, approved last December and signed by President Bush, Negroponte can transfer up to 100 intelligence employees after consulting with the appropriate congressional committees to new centers such as the National Counterterrorism Center or a similar center for nonproliferation, should one be established.
Under Hoekstra's original proposal, Negroponte could not act on such transfers unless the appropriate committees approve. A similar proposal was suggested last month as an amendment to the fiscal 2006 Defense Department authorization bill by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter did not follow through on his proposal when Negroponte's staff voiced opposition, but congressional sources said yesterday he got Hoekstra to add it to the intelligence bill.
In other action, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) proposed amendments that call for investigations of detainee abuse at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and other facilities either through an independent commission or a select committee. Hoekstra told the Rules Committee that proposals for detainee investigations should be taken up in separate legislation.