Thursday, November 30, 2006
Congress To Avoid Intelligence Oversight Fix
It was a stupid promise to make in the first place, the 9/11 Commission being the whitewash that it was. But this recommendation actually made some sense.
That's why they are not going to enact it.
It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. ...
It may seem like a minor matter, but members of the commission say Congress's failure to change itself is anything but inconsequential. In 2004, the commission urged Congress to grant the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation's intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees' gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.
But the commission was unequivocal about the need.
"Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important," the panel wrote. "So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need."
Now Democrats are balking, just as Republicans did before them. ...
(B)ecause the panels do not control the budget, intelligence agencies tend to dismiss them.
"The person who controls your budget is the person you listen to," (Thomas H. Kean (R), the 9/11 commission's co-chairman) said.
Those people, the appropriators, do not seem to care much, he said. The intelligence budget is a small fraction of the nearly $500 billion overseen by the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Kean said that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an Armed Services Committee member, told the Sept. 11 commission that if his panel spends 10 minutes considering the intelligence budget, it has been a good year.