End of impasse signaled on intelligence reform bill

Pentagon, White House express satisfaction

The Nation

December 03, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Senior officials signaled yesterday an end to the congressional impasse over plans to overhaul U.S. intelligence agencies in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said House-Senate negotiators had "satisfactorily" addressed his concerns that the Pentagon should retain budgetary control over battlefield intelligence within the annual $40 billion budget for 15 spy agencies.

The concerns have "been accommodated in the bill" so that spending decisions for battlefield intelligence will continue to go through the defense secretary, Myers said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said administration negotiations with Congress - mainly Republican members of the House who blocked earlier action - had reached the point that President Bush was writing congressional leaders and consulting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in hopes of winning congressional approval next week.

The 335-page measure would create a single national intelligence director to coordinate the assignments, budgets, personnel and hardware purchases of the 15 spy agencies. The new post would supervise the director of the CIA as well as the other agencies.

The legislation was inspired by the intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks and reflects the recommendation of the bipartisan investigative commission appointed by the White House and Congress, as well as relatives of victims.

The measure represents the most sweeping changes for U.S. intelligence since the overhaul after Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

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