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US Intelligence Reform Bill Remains in Doubt


Leading Republican and Democratic lawmakers continue to press for passage of a landmark bill to reform U.S. intelligence agencies. The fate of the legislation appears to hinge on a few key representatives of President Bush's Republican Party, who oppose the bill in its current form.

President Bush says the United States must do everything possible to defeat terrorist threats, including reforming the U.S. intelligence community.

Speaking with reporters in Washington Sunday, the Senate's top Democrat, Minority leader Harry Reid, echoed the call.

"It is so important that we pass that [bill]," said Mr.Reid. "The American people are depending on us to feel more safe and secure."

The bill, which would create a new national intelligence director, already passed in the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. But the legislation stalled last month in the House. There, the majority-Republican leadership has not brought the bill up for a vote in deference to the objections of two powerful House committee chairmen, who fear the measure would impede the flow of critical information to the armed forces.

Speaking on the CBS program Face the Nation, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat Roberts, suggested the disagreement amounts to a struggle, or "turf battle," between competing federal bureaucracies and their allies on Capitol Hill over power, resources and influence.

"I do not begrudge the turf battles," he said. "But they [opponents of the bill] have to understand something: The primary user of intelligence is not the military. It is the President of the United States and the National Security Council. Change is hard. And this [bill] is structural change. But after September 11th, to say the status quo is fine is beyond me [incomprehensible]."

Meanwhile, one of President Bush's primary lieutenants on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is predicting passage of an intelligence reform bill of some kind this coming week. Mr. Frist spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"We will come together and there will be compromise, but compromise that will be to the satisfaction of the majority of people in the House and the Senate," he said.

This is the last week of work scheduled for the 108th Congress. A new Congress will arrive in January, and would likely start from scratch in crafting an intelligence reform bill, should the current version fail to pass.