Panel will give ex­tra over­sight to intelligence bud­gets

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi on Dec. 14 said intelligence bud­gets would get an ex­tra layer of con­gres­sional over­sight, giv­ing Democrats op­por­tu­nity to curb the scope of some of Pres­i­dent Bush’s pro­grams.

Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats will cre­ate a se­lect intelligence over­sight panel that will func­tion within the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee.

The panel will be re­spon­si­ble for craft­ing the clas­si­fied por­tion of the De­fense De­part­ment’s bud­get and will al­low the law­mak­ers who au­tho­rize spy pro­grams to have an ad­di­tional role in fund­ing them.

The Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat promised that the panel will hold hear­ings on the pres­i­dent’s intelligence bud­get, which in­cludes fund­ing for the CIA and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

The Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Intelligence now is the only panel that han­dles intelligence pol­icy, and funds are al­lo­cated through the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions de­fense sub­com­mit­tee. Democrats pro­pose bridg­ing the two com­mit­tees, cre­at­ing a sep­a­rate panel with a few mem­bers from each.

“I know it will make the Amer­i­can peo­ple safer,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

The new panel, for ex­am­ple, could ad­just fund­ing for the NSA’s wire­tap­ping pro­gram, which many Democrats op­pose, and over­see intelligence agen­cies’ use of the funds.

The bi­par­ti­san Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Ter­ror­ist At­tacks Upon the United States said over­sight would have helped avoid many of the intelligence fail­ures lead­ing up to the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks.

It also called the intelligence agen­cies “too com­plex and se­cret,” and lamented a short­age of over­sight.

“Even the most ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about how much money is ac­tu­ally al­lo­cated to or within the intelligence com­mu­nity, and most of its key com­po­nents is shrouded from pub­lic view,” the Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion’s re­port said.

Mrs. Pelosi, who has served on both the intelligence and ap­pro­pri­a­tions pan­els, has long ad­vo­cated trans­parency in intelligence agen­cies.

A Repub­li­can ap­pro­pri­a­tions aide, how­ever, said the intelligence bud­gets must re­main se­cret to pre­vent en­e­mies from be­com­ing aware of U.S. spy pro­grams.

A trans­par­ent bud­get could sig­nal to en­e­mies, for ex­am­ple, large pro­cure­ments such as satel­lite sys­tems. The aide said “one or two” ap­pro­pri­a­tions staffers now have “need-to-know” ac­cess.

Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion mem­ber John F. Lehman, a Repub­li­can for­mer Navy sec­re­tary, said the plan to elim­i­nate dis­con­nect seems to be “a very good move in the right di­rec­tion.”

For­mer Rep. Ti­mothy J. Roe­mer, an In­di­ana Demo­crat who served on the Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion, said the idea is “creative” and “a ma­jor step for­ward” to meet­ing the panel’s goals.

In­com­ing House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, said he is an­a­lyz­ing and dis­cussing Mrs. Pelosi’s plan with his col­leagues.

Mr. Boehner will rec­om­mend which Repub­li­can mem­bers will serve on the panel, but Mrs. Pelosi has fi­nal ap­point­ment power. The chair­men and rank­ing mem­bers of both the full Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee and the de­fense sub­com­mit­tee will serve as ex-of­fi­cio mem­bers of the new panel.

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