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US House Considers More Money for Intelligence Operations - 2004-06-23

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation providing an estimated $40 billion for U.S. government intelligence operations. Final approval of the bill was marked by strains in normally cooperative relations between Democrats and Republicans on intelligence spending.

The exact level of intelligence funding is classified for national security reasons, so the $40 billion figure is an estimate of the money designated for 2005 for 14 agencies dealing with intelligence.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which holds many of its hearings behind closed doors, is one of the few committees in that chamber normally characterized by a high degree of bipartisan cooperation.

However, in recent days that balance broke down as Democrats complained bitterly that Republicans blocked key amendments that would have provided higher levels of funding and paved the way for reforms Democrats say are needed as part of the war on terrorism.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said the Republican-crafted legislation, which is supported the White House, leaves critical gaps. "This bill provides less than one third of the key funding that the intelligence community has told us they need to fight the war on terrorism, less than one third," she said.

However, Republican Congressman Porter Goss denied allegations the legislation short-changes the intelligence community. "The majority in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted to support the men and women of the intelligence community in this bill today," he said. We did not vote against the community, and we did not short change the community, in the global war on terrorism."

Among amendments rejected at the committee level was one by Mrs. Harman proposing reorganization of the intelligence system and a new position of Director of National Intelligence.

Although they say the legislation does provide funding to improve human intelligence needs, Democrats argue it will require supplemental spending requests from the Bush administration in the new fiscal year, beginning in October.

Ike Skelton, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, expressed disappointment at Republican tactics when the bill was voted on in the intelligence committee.

"I am troubled by the path the intelligence authorization bill has taken this year," said Mr. Skelton. "I can't remember the last time an intelligence bill passed out of committee, on a party line vote or when amendments offered in committee were all voted down on a party line. I would remind my colleagues that we are now in a war against terrorism and I would think we should make sure all the funding goes into the counter-terrorist area."

One Democratic amendment proposed withholding one quarter of funds for the CIA and other programs until the Bush administration provides congressional committees with all documents related to the handling and treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Republican amendments included one expressing the sense of Congress that the dismantling of Libya's weapons of mass destruction would not have happened without U.S. determination in the war on terrorism, including the war to oust Saddam Hussein.

Another says the apprehension, detention and interrogation of terrorists are fundamental to the success of the war on terrorism.