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December 7, 2004
Intelligence Bill Gains Enough Support To Pass

The intelligence bill that encompasses many of the 9/11 Commission's recommended changes in the structure of military and civil bureaucracies in order to consolidate their assets appears assured of passage, now that the main critics of the bill have been mollified by last-minute wording changes. The New York Times reports that Duncan Hunter has agreed to endorse the bill with a new proviso:

Congressional leaders reached final agreement Monday allowing passage of a bill to overhaul the nation's intelligence community and enact the major recommendations of the independent Sept. 11 commission, including creation of the job of national intelligence director to force the C.I.A. and other government spy agencies to share intelligence about national security threats.

The agreement ended a nearly monthlong stalemate over the bill, which had been endorsed by President Bush and the Sept. 11 commission but had been opposed by a group of Republican lawmakers close to the Pentagon who insisted it would dangerously dilute the authority of the Defense Department over intelligence needed on the battlefield.

The Republicans, led by Representative Duncan Hunter of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said they were satisfied by a last-minute revision of the bill to include a sentence requiring that the new intelligence director operate under guidelines that do not "abrogate the statutory responsibilities" of the Defense Department.

Getting beyond the qualities of the bill itself, about which I have some serious reservations, there should be no doubt about the dynamics of this exercise. George Bush just stood up to his base and got what he wanted -- an intelligence reform that many of them felt did not go far enough and in the wrong direction. The change for which Hunter blocked the bill's passage is, as Christopher Shays put it, a "face-saving measure" designed to cover the fact that Hunter caved on his opposition.

For some, of course, the bill goes too far rather than not far enough; the ACLU opposes it for its centralization of intelligence assets and greater cooperation between law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. The ACLU apparently slept during the 9/11 Commission hearings and neglected to read their report. One of the better analyses done by the commission showed how detrimental the "wall" between law enforcement and intelligence gathering had become to national security. Many people pointed out the inability of analysts to "connect the dots", but that deficit sprang directly from Justice Department edicts, some given by Commissioner Jamie Gorelick herself during her tenure in Justice. The ACLU apparently feels more comfortable putting their trust in terrorists than in American law-enforcement and intelligence personnel.

For dissenting Republicans, however, all is not lost. The upcoming Congressional session allows plenty of opportunity to address immigration and border policies, which James Sensenbrenner angrily vowed to pursue next year. The idea that only one bill could be passed to deal with the myriad of security issues facing the nation seems rather silly, and instead of wasting time blocking this bill Sensenbrenner could have worked on a companion bill instead. This legislation has been making its way to a vote for months. Why hold it hostage at the last moment?

The President sent the message that he wants his legislative agenda enacted and that he refuses to be held hostage to gadflies on either side of the aisle. When he spoke of spending political capital, he meant with the Republicans as well as with the Democrats. Bush has built the party into a juggernaut, perhaps the most successful politician in decades in not only getting himself elected, but also in transforming a political party -- not always for the better -- and pushing it to new heights. He just reminded everyone who the boss is. I think they got the message.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 7, 2004 7:07 AM

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