Negotiators acknowledge intelligence overhaul is stalled

Legislation is hung up over powers of director

October 30, 2004|By Mary Curtius | Mary Curtius,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - A sweeping overhaul of the nation's intelligence apparatus, one of the chief recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission, appeared headed for collapse yesterday as House and Senate negotiators acknowledged they could not agree on a bill before next week's elections.

Negotiators were unable to overcome opposition from the Pentagon and its supporters to creating a powerful new intelligence czar. The military fears that too much authority over the budgets and personnel of the intelligence agencies would be shifted away from the secretary of defense.

"The initial hurdle we're facing is the one that intelligence reformists have been facing for the last half-century," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat. "How do you allow the Department of Defense to maintain some form of budget authority over the intelligence budget?"

The failure to rapidly reform the nation's hodgepodge of intelligence agencies demonstrated again the government's difficulty in coming to grips with the fundamental problems the terrorist attacks laid bare.

"The conferees have gone home; it seems like they are at an impasse and I think it's tragic that we don't have legislation on the president's desk before the election," said Mary Fetchet, a member of a group of family members who lost relatives in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The group lobbied for creation of the Sept. 11 Commission and has pushed Congress to adopt the panel's recommendations. Fetchet said that her group will continue to press for a bill: "I don't think we can lose hope, but it comes down to what the White House will do."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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