December 12, 2002
Lawmakers skeptical of plan for more spies
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Recommendations in a congressional intelligence committee report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attack could lead to unnecessary spying on
United States citizens and even more burdensome bureaucracy, skeptical Ohio-area congressmen said Wednesday.
Among the report’s recommendations is the proposal that Congress at least consider creating a domestic intelligence agency that would take over the main
domestic intelligence-gathering responsibilities of the FBI.
“Horrible idea,” said Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, who fears the agency would spy on “native born” Americans.
“One of the problems I have with the whole homeland security thing is why is a born and raised American, that is born here, that has a birth certificate
here, why do we have to know what videos they buy from Blockbuster? To create an internal spy organization I think is ridiculous,” he said.
Rep. Ted Strickland also opposes the idea, while Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, say they need more details before they take a stance.
Strickland, D-Lucasville, said creating another agency to collect domestic intelligence may not improve anything.
“Simply because they have identified problems within these agencies (FBI and CIA) does not seem to me to be sufficient reason to just go and create
another agency, which may have the same problems,” he said. “We ought to require these agencies to live up to their responsibility rather than create a
The government released declassified portions of the report to the public Wednesday. The document, numbering hundreds of pages, is the product of a
joint House-Senate intelligence committee inquiry into the failure to anticipate last year’s attack.
Like Ney and Strickland, Regula worries about creating unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.
“I have some hesitation about the proliferation of agencies,” Regula said. “That was part of the problem before (Sept. 11). Everybody had a piece of it. Will this result in oversight so you get rid of all these turf conflicts? I don’t know.”
The congressmen also are skeptical of one of the report’s key recommendations: creating a position of national intelligence director to oversee all intelligence gathering.
“Bad idea,” Ney said. “I don’t think you create czars to make people do their work. I mean, we’ve got a homeland security agency we’ve created to
coordinate within the government.”
Strickland expressed doubts.
“I’m wondering how this is going to fit under the larger responsibilities of the secretary of homeland security,” he said. “It seems to me we may just be
creating bureaucracies if we have a secretary of homeland security and a secretary of national intelligence. Isn’t it possible for those responsibilities to exist within one agency?”
Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, backs creating the national intelligence director position. One person needs to have authority over the entire intelligence budget to direct government resources to the right areas, he said.
Regula and Brown said they need to read the report before they take a position.
Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican, had not yet read the report and was unavailable to discuss it. His spokesman Scott Milburn said Voinovich “clearly
believes this represents an intelligence failure and the inability of different intelligence and security organizations to talk to one another.”
The report urges the CIA and departments of Justice, Defense and State to determine if any of their employees should be held accountable for failure to
anticipate the Sept. 11 attack and to take appropriate disciplinary action if necessary.
That’s too forgiving, contends Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top-ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee.
Area lawmakers differed on the question.
Brown is all in favor of punishment as long as it’s meted out fairly.
“It shouldn’t be finger pointing, this guy’s responsible and letting someone else off the hook,” he said. “It has to be comprehensive with no political
Ney said federal officials and employees “need to know where they failed” and correct their mistakes.
Strickland is less concerned with punishing past lapses than with holding officials accountable from now on.
“It’s necessary for the current leadership of these agencies to either perform or be removed from office,” he said.