THE ANOMALY IN HOUSE RULES RELATING TO THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE (House of Representatives - November 07, 1989)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Florida [Mr. Young] is recognized for 5 minutes.
- Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Speaker, a resolution pending before the Rules Committee really caught my attention. Authored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Tony Beilenson, it gives the Speaker blanket access to the Intelligence Committee's proceedings and information.
- As a former member of the Intelligence Committee, I knew that the majority leader and minority leader were both ex officio members and assumed that the Speaker already had such access. So I wondered why the Beilenson resolution was necessary.
- I went back and reviewed House Rule 48, which governs the Intelligence Committee's activities, and sure enough, in what amounts to a real anomaly, there is no provision allowing the Speaker, who is just two heart beats away from the Presidency, such broad access to the Intelligence Committee. Instead, I reconfirmed that any Member of Congress not on the Intelligence Committee, can only gain access to the Intelligence Committee's proceedings and information if that committee votes to allow such access and found that this restriction also applies to the Speaker of the House. Given these restrictions, I now understand the rationale for the Beilenson proposal.
- Mr. Speaker, what really disturbs, me, however, is how long it has taken to address this anomaly. The House Intelligence Committee was established more than 12 years ago. What did previous Speakers do if they wanted to learn about important intelligence matters? As best as I can determine, they were informally briefed from time to time by key commtitee members and staff, apparently in violation of rule 48. An example of what I am talking about is discussed in a recently published book about former Speaker Jim Wright entitled `The Ambition and the Power.' The book's author, John Barry, described in some detail how Speaker Wright allegedly learned from the previous chairman of the House Intelligence Committee some extremely sensitive intelligence information. When I checked with the members and staff of the Intelligence Committee to see if there was any record of the former Speaker being briefed on this matter, I learned there was none. If Mr. Barry's assertions are correct, then this was another violation of rule 48 which, inter alia, requires a written record of any dealings by Intelligence Committee members or staff with anyone who is not a member of the committee, including the Speaker of the House.
- Mr. Speaker, members of the Intelligence Committee are entrusted with the most sensitive national security secrets of our country. Those who receive that information must be responsible in keeping that information from any one except those legally and properly cleared for access to such material. That includes, Mr. Speaker, obeying the law and rules of the House that relate to the Intgelligence Committee and its members and staff.