Negotiations on intelligence bills are stalled

October 23, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - Negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate remained at loggerheads yesterday over legislation to revamp the intelligence community.

The main sticking points are how powerful a new national intelligence director should be and whether controversial immigration and law enforcement provisions in the House version of the bill should survive.

Senate and House conferees had hoped to reach a compromise by Nov. 2, but as lawmakers headed home for the weekend yesterday, Senate conferee Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, said, "With every passing day, we have to be realistic that is it harder to do it right before the election."

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, acknowledged the deadline's possible slippage but added: "We are not going to be moved by an artificial date."

The independent Sept. 11 commission's recommendations, made in July, are the basis of both bills and of the impasse. The commission recommended a new national intelligence director with control over the nation's intelligence community, 80 percent of which now resides with the Pentagon.

Hoekstra's House Republican colleagues seek to protect the Pentagon's control over the intelligence community and its budgets. Senators favor a strong director with authority to hire and fire, direct operations and control budgets for intelligence gathering and analysis.

Expanding the powers of law enforcement authorities is another point of disagreement. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican, is insisting that counterterrorist agencies be allowed to deport certain immigrants without judicial review. The White House is not backing that provision, but it has endorsed other House measures, such as making it easier to conduct secret surveillance on individuals who are not known to be connected to terrorist groups.

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