December 4, 2004
Intelligence bill divides reps
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — Area lawmakers including Rep. Ralph Regula are divided over legislation that would mark the most dramatic change in the nation’s intelligence gathering system since the CIA was created in 1947.
But depending on what form a House-Senate compromise measure takes, they could end up on the same page next week, when the bill may come up for a vote.
The legislation, designed to help prevent another terrorist attack, would create a national intelligence director to oversee and manage more than a dozen federal intelligence agencies.
The measure is based on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, voted for a version of the legislation that the House approved.
Reps. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, and Tim Ryan, D-Niles, voted against that bill. They argued it would not give enough budget-making and other authority to the intelligence director.
President Bush is pressuring House leaders to bring the House-Senate compromise to a vote Monday, despite the opposition of several influential congressmen.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., strongly opposes the compromise, which he fears could imperil the ability of the military to share intelligence on the battlefield.
Hunter, a former Army Ranger, contends that the authority given to an intelligence director in the compromise could interfere with the military’s control over its own intelligence.
“I think Duncan may be a little bit overreacting,” said Regula, who expects to vote for any intelligence measure that gains the support of a majority of Republicans. “There’s always this turf problem between the military and CIA and various other agencies on the use of intelligence. I think they should share. If they had done that we wouldn’t have had a 9/11.”
Accountability is at the heart of intelligence reform, in Regula’s view. “Somebody’s got to be responsible — one person,” he said.
Ney did not respond to numerous requests seeking his views on intelligence reform.
Senators who voted for a version of the legislation giving more power to a national intelligence director are resisting Hunter’s objections.
Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, favors the strongest possible intelligence director and could oppose any bill that weakens the position.
“He doesn’t believe we ought to create this new bureaucracy and then not give this person the power they need to carry out their job to oversee the nation’s intelligence community,” said Mike Dawson, a DeWine spokesman.
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, also favors the compromise.
“He would vote for it if it were to come up,” said Voinovich spokeswoman Marcie Ridgway.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, refused to allow a vote on the measure last month, fearing that a majority of House Republicans would side with Hunter and vote against the bill.
Regula anticipates negotiators will succeed in tweaking the bill in a way that satisfies both Hunter and advocates of a strong intelligence director. Should that effort fail, he does not expect the measure to come to a vote.
Area Democrats dismissed Hunter’s worries and said they were open to voting for the compromise if it gives more authority to an intelligence director than the version they opposed.
“The Defense Department doesn’t want to give up its influence and its power and authority,” Brown said. “Hunter is taking the Defense Department position.”
“If you’re going to have a centralized intelligence gathering mechanism, budget authority is the name of the game,” he said. “In Washington, D.C., if you don’t control the budget, the money, then you are a paper tiger.”
Ryan also favors a strong intelligence director.
“You’re either going to give him the powers that he needs to reform the system or he’s just going to be weak,” said Ryan spokesman Ryan Keating. “Having a weak national intelligence director would be worse than the system that we have now.”