Senators Differ on Disclosing Intelligence Budget
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved legislation expanding the CIA director’s authority over appointments and budgets of most other government intelligence agencies.
However, the legislation approved Wednesday also needs action by the Senate Armed Services Committee which has indicated its reluctance to act on it this year. The panel also is certain to take a very hard look at any provisions that appear to take power away from the Pentagon.
``We took an important step toward better intelligence to support the policy-makers and the military in protecting our country,″ said Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
The committee endorsed President Clinton’s request to give CIA Director John Deutch and his successors greater authority over the rest of the intelligence community.
But pointedly excluded was the Defense Intelligence Agency which will remain responsible to the secretary of defense.
Under the bill Deutch will gain responsibility for the budgets for the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the Central Imaging Office. The Imaging Office would become part of a new National Imagery and Mapping Agency with responsibility for processing all material from spy satellites.
The CIA director’s agreement also would be required on appointments of the heads of the NSA, NRO and the new Imagery and Mapping Agency.
He also would be consulted, but not have a veto power, over appointments of the heads of DIA, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the State Department, the FBI’s national security division director and the Energy Department’s intelligence office.
The committee also voted to make the overall figure for the government’s intelligence agencies public, despite misgivings expressed during a public hearing.
``I think that there’s absolutely no danger to doing it, and I think it’s marginally beneficial for people to know what the top line is of the budget, provided that you don’t go below that,″ Deutch told the committee.
The CIA director said he supports the recommendation of a special commission headed by former Defense Secretary Harold Brown that the overall budget figure be made public.
``If they had recommended the opposite, I think I would have been equally supportive,″ he said.
The total intelligence budget was inadvertently disclosed two years ago by the House Appropriations Committee and projections since then have led to estimates that it currently is about $30 billion.
Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., said, ``The American public doesn’t want to know that number. In fact, if there is a problem in this country in terms of the American public’s perception of our intelligence community, it is that we are giving out too much information.″