Sunday, May 28, 2006

Panel Requires Annual Disclosure of Intelligence Budget
Panel Requires Annual Disclosure of Intelligence Budget
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has approved language in the fiscal 2007 authorization bill that calls on the president to annually make public what the National Intelligence Program costs.

The president would also be required to give notification of significant intelligence matters, such as the National Security Agency surveillance program, to all members of the panel, not just the chairman and vice chairman.

The National Intelligence Program, which covers the strategic intelligence efforts of the 16 agencies in the community, is under Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte. Its budget is said to make up more than 75 percent of the estimated $44 billion annual spending on intelligence. The other part, the Military Intelligence Program, finances tactical intelligence for the armed forces and is controlled primarily by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The Senate committee also directed Negroponte to study the "advisability" of publicly disclosing the budgets for each agency and to report back six months after the authorization bill is passed.

The measure was approved by the intelligence committee in a closed session Tuesday and sent to the Senate two days later. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the panel, disclosed the action late Friday in a news release.

"We have taken steps to reassert Congress' constitutional role as a check and balance to the Executive Branch," Rockefeller said. He called the requirement to make public the intelligence budget a "step toward greater transparency and accountability that is long overdue and will allow for a more informed debate on the priority of intelligence programs."

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who noted the report yesterday in his Secrecy News blog, pointed out that the commission on Sept. 11, 2001, had recommended publishing the intelligence budget totals and that in 2004 the House blocked, with White House approval, a similar plan after the Senate passed it.

Many of the more controversial amendments, including one by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to make the intelligence budget public, were approved over the objection of the Republican committee majority when GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) voted with Democrats.

In a 9 to 6 vote, the committee approved an amendment by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) requiring Negroponte to submit a classified report on each clandestine prison or detention facility the U.S. government has operated at home or abroad that held detainees labeled as terrorists.

Notification of "each member" of the committee represents a reaction to the limited briefings by the administration on the NSA program involving surveillance of terrorist-related telephone calls between the United States and abroad. Initially, only the chairman and vice chairman were briefed. On the eve of confirmation hearings for Gen. Michael V. Hayden to become CIA director, all committee members were included because Hayden had launched the program when he was director of the NSA.

The amendment requires that when more limited briefings are held, "all members will be provided with a notification and will be provided with a summary of the intelligence activity or covert action," according to the Senate committee report.

In other action, the committee is requiring that future CIA directors be appointed "from civilian life," and approved language that Hayden, as long as he is on active military duty as CIA director, is "not subject to the supervision or control of the Secretary of Defense."