Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that it may be in order today to consider the conference report to accompany the bill (H.R. 2748) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 1990 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the U.S. Government, the intelligence community staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes, and that the conference report be considered as read when called up for consideration.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?
There was no objection.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I call up the conference report on the bill (H.R. 2748) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 1990 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the U.S. Government, the intelligence community staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
(For conference report and statement, see proceedings of the House of November 16, 1989, at page H 8853.)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson] will be recognized for 30 minutes, and the gentleman from Illinois. [Mr. Hyde] will be recognized for 30 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson].
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report to accompany H.R. 2748, fiscal 1990 Intelligence Authorization Act.
The funds authorized by the conference report, as to which there was very little disagreement between the two authorizing committees or among the members of each committee, are set forth in the classified schedule of authorizations that are described in detail in the classified annex to the statement of managers accompanying the conference report. Both documents continue to be available for review by any Member of the House in the office of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The conferees have recommended a slightly lower level of funding than that requested by the President. Some proposals have been deferred or deleted, while others have received increased funding. The result, in the opinion of the conferees, is a program and budget authorization that represents a reasonable balance between needed intelligence capability and prudent cost.
The conference report also contains several legislative provisions. They are essentially those contained in the House-passed bill, plus provisions of the Senate-passed bill dealing with disability retirement and death-in-service benefits for CIA employees serving overseas, residency requirements for staff of the U.S. Army Russian Institute applying for U.S. citizenship, death gratuities for families of U.S. military attaches killed overseas, the responsibility of the FBI to supervise espionage investigation overseas, and the establishment of a statutory inspector general at the CIA.
In regard to the inspector general provision, it should be noted that the conference report does not create an inspector general at the CIA. There has been an Office of Inspector General at the Agency for several years. What the conference report does do is attempt to remove some of the ingrained institutional barriers that, no matter how well intentioned or competent the employees of the CIA/IG office may be, have prevented that office from performing its internal oversight and audit functions.
The conference report does this by making the CIA/IG a statutory office nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and removable only by the President.
In adopting the statutory inspector general provision, the conferees included a provision from the House bill authored by the gentleman from Oklahoma [Mr. McCurdy], our colleague, which ensures the Intelligence Committees are provided copies of CIA inspector general reports when requested by the chairman or ranking minority member of either Intelligence Committee. While it is not expected this provision will be used
frequently, it is clear the Intelligence Committees must have the legal right to demand access to inspector general reports.
The combination of these provisions is a necessary step that will add to the stature of the Office of Inspector General, significantly improve that office's ability to carry out its audit, inspection, and investigative activities, and enable the Intelligence Commuties to conduct more effective oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency, and although the conference report provides for a more independent inspector general at the CIA, one who is more insulated from internal management pressures, the bill specifically recognizes that the CIA is different from other agencies. It provides that the inspector general shall have prior experience in the field of foreign intelligence and that the IG shall report directly to, and be under the general supervision of, the Director of Central Intelligence. It also includes provisions ensuring that intelligence sources and methods are protected, that the CIA personnel security policies are maintained, and that the Director of Central Intelligence has the final say in what the inspector general should investigate.
In addition, unlike other statutory IG's in the Federal Government, the CIA inspector general will report to Congress only through the two Intelligence Committees.
Furthermore, the bill provides that the Director of Central Intelligence may prohibit the inspector general from initiating, carrying out, or completing any audit, inspection, or investigation if he determines that such prohibition is necessary to protect vital security interests of the United States, but in those circumstances the Director must submit a statement of his reasons for such action within 7 days to the two Intelligence Committees. Although it is anticipated, may I say, that only in the most sensitive matters will the DCI exercise statutory authority to prohibit such an audit or investigation.
The conference report does not include three provisions found in the House bill, those concerning the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, CIA drug testing, and domestic contracting by the CIA.
The House bill as passed by the House required the Director of Central Intelligence to institute a random drug testing program for employees of the CIA. The conferees note that CIA currently maintains an active drug awareness and prevention program and is actively committed to preventing and detecting drug use among CIA employees.
The CIA's drug detection program includes background investigations of all applicants, specifically focusing on whether applicants use or abuse drugs or alcohol. Applicants are also given medical examinations that screen urine and blood samples. Psychological assessments are made of applicants to determine behavior that could indicate abuse of drugs or alcohol. Finally, every applicant is given a polygraph examination to determine whether the applicant has abused drugs or alcohol.
The CIA's program for a drug-free workplace does not end with the acceptance of an applicant for employment. The agency continues to be vigilant against drug abuse among its employees. Agency policy requires that new employees be subject to reinvestment after 3 years. This reinvestigation includes another medical examination and another polygraph examination that covers substance abuse during the time of employment at the agency. Agency employees are also subject to periodic routine reinvestigations. A specific issue polygraph examination and/or a fitness for duty medical examination may be conducted at any time if there are indications of drug use.
Should the conferees, through the oversight activities of the Intelligence Committees determine that a drug problem exists or has developed at the agency, the issue of random drug testing will be reexamined.
The House bill contained another provision authorizing the Director of Central Intelligence to award certain contracts to domestic firms. The conferees agreed that this provision was unnecessary because it is unlikely that the Director would ever be in a position to exercise the option to award contracts to domestic firms that, under the use of competitive procedures, would be awarded to a foreign firm. The CIA, for example, goes to great lengths to enter contracts with firms that are not subject to foreign influence. As a result of this security concern, the agency contracts almost exclusively with domestic companies already. Even if the Director could ever exercise the option called for, the requirement of coordination with the U.S. Trade Representative and the Secretary of Commerce raises serious problems with compartmentalization of classified information. Details of operational activities would have to be shared with other agencies in ways that are not the normal course of business for the CIA. Creating new channels of dissemination of classified information necessarily puts that information at risk.
Third, section 703 of the House-passed bill contained a provision requiring the President to issue financial disclosure and reporting regulations applicable to Members of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board or PFIAB, as it is called. The Senate amendment did not contain a similar provision. The conferees adopted the Senate position in this particular matter. It is hoped that the President, on his own, will address the issues posed by the House provision, and will issue new financial reporting and disclosure regulations applicable to the PFIAB.
The conference report also does not contain the sections in the Senate amendment that dealt with changes to the Oversight Act of 1980. Title IX of the Senate amendment, revising the intelligence oversight provision of title V of the National Security Act of 1947 was, except for the provision in the bills regarding notice to th Intelligence Committees within 48 hours of the approval of a covert action, substantially the same as legislation reported by both Intelligence Committees last year.
The conferees agreed that this title would make a number of valuable changes in the intelligence oversight framework. The House conferees believed, however, that certain provisions in this title might be further improved with additional consideration by the Intelligence Committees. Inasmuch as these provisions were inextricably related to other provisions, and in light of the limited time remaining in this session of the 101st Congress to consider such improvements, the House conferees proposed that action on title IX be deferred until the next session, with the understanding that the issues addressed in title IX of the Senate amendment will be reconsidered by both committees during the second session of the 101st Congress. The Senate was kind enough to recede to the House position on this matter.
Mr. Speaker, turning now to the subject of Nicaragua, I can assure the House that the conference report as did the House-passed bill authorizes no funds whatsoever for covert support to opposition parties or candidates in the February election, and prohibits the use of CIA reserves for contingencies for such activities.
Before closing, Mr. Speaker, I would report the pending retirement from Government service of Tom Latimer, Staff Director of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, since its inception back in 1977. As an intelligence analyst, a National Security Council staffer, a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and as our Staff Director, he has served his Nation well, and he takes with him a well-deserved reputation for common sense, integrity, and nonpartisanship. He has been a true servant of the public. On behalf of our committee members and my predecessors as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Boland, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Stokes, I thank Tom and wish him well.
Mr. Speaker, also in ending my portion here, I want to thank all of the members of our Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for the hard work that they have given us throughout the year. With their help, I think we have done a good job of fulfilling the responsibilities that have been given to us by the House of Representatives, both of authorizing funding for the Nation's intelligence agencies, and of reviewing and conducting oversight of the activities of those agencies.
If I may, Mr. Speaker, a special word of appreciation to my friend, the gentleman from Illinois Mr. Hyde, the ranking minority Member for his splendid support and his collegiality, his help at all times, and even at some times when if it were necessary his good-natured taking exception to what we were doing in the majority of the committee.
Finally, again in ending, Mr. Speaker, a word of appreciation also for our counterparts over in the Senate, especially the distinguished chairman from Oklahoma, Mr. Boren, and the distinguished vice chairman, the gentleman from Maine, Mr. Cohen. They have been easy and good to work with. We have established I think a very close and healthy working relationship with them.
So, Mr. Speaker, I urge support for our conference report.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I support the conference report on H.R. 2748, the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 1990. However, I do so with considerable reluctance, because title VIII contains a Senate provision to create an independent statutory inspector general [IG] for the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]. This ill-advised step is legislative overkill. The provision was firmly opposed by the President in a letter to the leadership of the other body before their floor debate on this measure.
Does my strong opposition to the creation at this time of such a statutory inspector general mean that I am opposed to effectively improving oversight of the CIA? Not at all. The CIA currently has an in-house inspector general which the Director of Central Intelligence [DCI], Judge Webster, considers a very important management resource in his efforts to improve the effectiveness of the CIA's operations.
I frankly admit that many of us have entertained some concerns about the strength and capabilities of the present internal inspector general process and the uneven quality of some of its reports. In a series of hearings by the Intelligence Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Evaluation, we learned about the structure and function of the existing CIA inspector general office. During this period, Judge Webster instituted reforms intended to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of the CIA inspector general office. I support his efforts. Moreover, as a result of our extensive subcommittee hearings, the House bill included a provision to improve access by the two intelligence committees to the investigation, audit and inspection reports of the CIA inspector general. That House provision had strong bipartisan support. It had multiple purposes. First, it would strengthen our committee's significant oversight capabilities regarding CIA operations. Second, it would buttress the stature of the inspector general within the CIA. Third, it would help us better monitor and evaluate the progress of Judge Webster's reforms in the inspector general structure and process.
There has been a fair opportunity for us to see how effective the measures taken by Judge Webster will be. We are still closely following this issue. Nevertheless, after one hearing, the other body decided that they would opt for a shining example of what has become one of the congressional
`10 Commandments:' `Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.'
The result was this lengthy provision creating a high-level, independent, statutory IG who would be a Presidential appointee subject to Senate confirmation. Only two other officials with the CIA have that august status, the Director of Central Intelligence [DCI] himself and the Deputy Direcor of Central Intelligence.
Much of the statutory IG's reporting duties would revolve around reporting to Congress whenever he and the DCI can't resolve a difference between themselves over the IG's activities. Furthermore, the IG would report extensively on corrective actions he recommends and whether they have been completed. In fact, this heavy emphasis strongly implies a congressional assumption that any recommendation for corrective action by the statutory IG ought to be viewed by Judge Webster as chiseled in stone and delivered by Moses.
In the uniquely close-knit society of this important clandestine agency, insiders may be extremely reluctant to be candid with a high-level, Presidentially appointed outsider, causing oversight to suffer. Moreover, the provision's subtle invitation to bureaucratic struggle between this super-level IG and the DCI could end up both degrading oversight and hampering effective management at the CIA. We should have given the judge's internal IG reform initiatives a fair chance instead of rushing to judgment with the irrevocable creation of a statutory IG.
Not withstanding this supremely unwise provision, the conference report does authorize funds for many important classified intelligence and intelligence-related programs. It also includes legislative language to improve the operating authorities of various agencies within the intelligence community. I do, however, regret very much that, despite my strong support for its inclusion, the conference report does not include the Solomon amendment adopted in the House to require a random drug testing program for the CIA. Nevertheless, on the whole, this is worthwhile legislation, and I urge the House to adopt the conference report with one major caveat. If the President decides to veto this bill because of the statutory IG provision, I reserve the right to vote to sustain that veto.
And in closing, Mr. Speaker, let me also join in commending and praising Mr. Tom Latimer, who will be retiring as staff director of this very important and effective committee.
His job has been one of effectiveness, insightfulness and bipartisanship. He will be sorely missed.
Let me again commend the chairman, the gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson] for a really superb and sensitive job of running our committee, which is a difficult one to chair. He has done it with wisdom and understanding and has made it a genuine pleasure to serve on this committee.
Mr. Speaker, I also make mention of the fact that the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Shuster], the ranking Republican on our Subcommittee on Oversight and Evaluation, has had to return to his district. Because he vigorously opposes the CIA statutory inspector general provision, at the appropriate time I would ask to have his statement included in the Record at this point.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Illinois for his kind remarks.
Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the distinguished and very effective ranking majority member, the gentleman from Oklahoma [Mr. McCurdy].
(Mr. McCURDY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. McCURDY. Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to commend the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson], for his superb handling of the authorization bill this year, and the ranking member, the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde]. I also want to commend the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Shuster], who is the ranking member of the Oversight and Evaluation Subcommittee, for his support throughout the subcommittee hearings and deliberations this year.
Although there have been and are differences on the conference report in reference to the statutory inspector general, Mr. Shuster has been completely supportive and very cooperative in the subcommittee deliberations and provisions that passed the House.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report on H.R. 2748, the intelligence authorization bill for fiscal year 1990. This conference report contains two important provisions relating to the internal oversight mechanisms within the Central Intelligence Agency and its Office of Inspector General.
Last month, Mr. Speaker, the House passed its version of the fiscal year 1990 intelligence authorization bill. Contained in that bill were provisions relating to the CIA inspector general which required that he expand the level of detail in his semiannual report to the two intelligence committees, and that he provide--at the committees' request--copies of IG inspection reports.
These provisions were arrived at in bipartisan fashion and were the result of an inquiry by the Oversight and Evaluation Subcommittee into the effectiveness of the CIA's Inspector General Office. During this inquiry, the subcommittee encountered considerable problems obtaining access to IG inspection reports. These reports--which contain the findings of the IG concerning matters of economy, efficiency, and the management of CIA programs--were deemed critical in the subcommittee's review of the effectiveness of the IG office at CIA. Our intent in requesting these reports was not to conduct a fishing expedition, but to assess the overall quality of these reports and the responsiveness of the Agency in implementing any corrective actions identified in them. After a long protracted period of some 4 months of negotiations, I was unable to obtain assurance from Director Webster that full access would be granted. I therefore felt it necessary to draft the legislative provision passed by the House several weeks ago to assure future access to these reports by the two intelligence oversight committees.
Mr. Speaker, it is critical that the intelligence oversight committees of the Congress have the access necessary to do their jobs. We on the Intelligence Committee have a clear responsibility to the Members of this House and the American people in assuring that CIA programs are effectively managed, that the resources we authorize are well spent, and that our intelligence activities are conducted within the law. The House provision included in the conference report will assure that the intelligence committees have full and unfettered access to the information they require in this regard.
The conference report before the House today also contains a Senate provision creating an independent, statutory IG at the CIA. Considerable testimony received before the Oversight and Evaluation Subcommittee and in hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee support this concept.
The Senate provision provides for the creation of an independent IG office at CIA, held appropriately accountable to Congress, to conduct inspections, investigations, and audits relating to the programs and operations of the CIA. The IG office is to recommend policies designed to promote economy and efficiency in the administration of CIA programs, and to detect instances of waste, fraud, and abuse. The IG is required to keep the Director of Central Intelligence--the DCI--fully informed of problems and deficiencies in CIA programs, recommend corrective actions, and insure that the two intelligence oversight committees of the Congress are kept fully informed of these matters.
The new statutory IG at CIA will be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. He may only be removed by the President and is to have prior experience in the field of intelligence with other appropriate skills in management, accounting or public administration. The provision allows the DCI to halt an IG inquiry if he deems this necessary to protect vital national security interests, but he must notify the two intelligence committees within 7 days if this power is exercised. IG personnel are required to have the requisite training and experience to carry out their duties, and the IG is urged to create a career cadre of professionals within the office to perform its mission objectively.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of the need for a statutory IG at CIA is one which Congress has examined with great care. Hearings were held in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1988 and 1989, and I have already mentioned our subcommittee hearings in the House earlier this year. The
creation of a statutory IG at CIA was one of the principal recommendations of the House and Senate Iran-Contra committees, which noted in their final report that the CIA IG `did not appear to have the manpower, resources, or tenacity to acquire key facts uncovered by other investigations.' Numerous other Government panels--starting with the Rockefeller Commission in 1975--have raised concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the administratively established IG at CIA.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize to Members voting on this conference report today that statutory offices of inspector general exist now in virtually every major Government agency and Cabinet department. These offices have been created by law to consolidate responsibilities for combatting waste, fraud, and abuse within their respective agencies. They control their own resources, have a high degree of independence, and hold impressive authority to carry out their mandates. All Cabinet departments and major executive agencies have in place an independent, statutory IG to act as their internal watchdog. The only exception--until today--has been the CIA.
It has been argued by Director Webster and others that CIA has taken steps to upgrade its IG office, and that a statutory IG is not needed at this time. Opponents have also argued that the CIA is `special' because its programs and operations are so sensitive that a statutory IG would inhibit initiative within the Agency and possibly compromise sensitive programs if they were opened up to an independent examiner. While Director Webster has made some marginal improvements in the IG office at the Agency, I would submit that the time has now come for a statutory inspector general at the CIA.
Our concurrent House-Senate review of the Agency's IG office has identified continuing and chronic shortcomings. Audit coverage of CIA programs is less than adequate, and often is not conducted according to accepted Government standards. Investigations of wrongdoing and management inspectors of CIA components are uneven in their quality, with some being quite thorough and others lacking in their coverage. A significant number of IG personnel are on brief 1- to 2-year rotations in the office from other CIA components. It is very difficult for someone serving a short-term stint in the IG office, who seeks promotion elsewhere in CIA, to be fully objective. It was difficult for us to even assess the quality of management inspections, since senior CIA management would not provide us full access to the IG's final reports on these matters. Nor were we aware of all audits, investigations, and inspections being conducted, since they were not comprehensively reported to the intelligence committees--even by simply naming their topics--as required by last year's intelligence authorization bill. So, while there have indeed been some incremental improvements in the CIA IG office, there is still substantial progress that can and must be made.
Regarding security considerations, I would note that every other Federal agency in the national security establishment--the Departments of Defense, Energy, Justice, State, and Treasury--now have statutory IG's and have experienced no security problems as a direct result of IG activities. The history of IG's has also shown that employees generally feel more rather than less secure raising concerns and speaking candidly when they are protected by an independent statutory IG which has dual reporting requirements and accountability to the Congress. As to whether or not a statutory IG will hamstring CIA operations, this thesis is also not supported by the history of IG's in other national security-related agencies. The statutory IG provision before us addresses a very real need to accomplish better internal oversight in an agency spending millions of dollars behind a cloak of secrecy subject to fewer controls than most Federal agencies. The current IG at CIA is simply not getting the job done, and the statutory IG contained in today's bill takes a balanced step toward achieving better internal oversight and accountability within the Agency.
The IG provisions contained in the intelligence authorization conference report strike a reasonable balance between protecting sensitive CIA programs while assuring that Congress is fully informed on their effectiveness. This legislation assures access to the reports of the IG, elevates the authority of the Office of Inspector General within the Agency, enhances the IG's independence and strengthens internal CIA auditing capabilities. The result will be a more objective and effective inspector general, appropriately accountable to the Congress. I urge my colleagues to support its passage.
Mr. Speaker, I want to join the chairman and ranking member in also adding my commendations to Mr. Tom Latimer, the staff director of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who will be retiring. We certainly feel a personal loss with his retirement, and I commend him for his valuable years of service not only to the committee but to the Nation as a whole, and wish him well in that effort.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the distinguished gentleman from Louisiana [Mr. Livingston].
(Mr. LIVINGSTON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. LIVINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report, and aside from my chief concern about an issue of which I shall speak momentarily, I would like to express my very sincere appreciation to the gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson], and the ranking member, the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde], and all the members of the subcommittee for working in great friendship, if not always total agreement, on matters of critical national importance. It is a pleasure to serve on the committee, and especially with such fine leaders.
I might also say, though, that there is a matter, unfortunately, of which I am concerned. The CIA inspector general issue has become one of the most divisive issues, at least in the conference with the Senate. It pains me that on this issue our committee has once again split along party and philosophical lines. We Republicans prefer to avoid nonessential layers of government and are sensitive to working conditions of CIA employees, and any exacerbation of the state of siege mentality that, unfortunately, seems prevalent these days at Langley.
But in this case, Republicans agree to the necessity for an effective inspector general. The debate should have been over pragmatic issues, whether, as a first resort we should try to improve the existing internal inspector general, and congressional review of its quality; or move immediately to impose an independent statutory inspector general. It seemed clear to members that, given the irreversible nature of the later steps, and the potential risks associated with it, the wiser course of action would have been to experiment with options first. The effectiveness of inspector generals at the State Department and the Department of Defense have improved greatly, once they made an independent statutory inspector general. However, testimony from them attributed that improvement mainly to the fact they were reported to the Congress and their findings became public, so that there was pressure to act on their findings and recommendations, which in the past often had been ignored.
Republicans firmly supported the House language requiring that the CIA inspector general submit more detailed summaries of its activities to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and that the committees receive all inspector general reports upon request. We hope to acquire the same leverage to improve report quality and inspector general clout without risking the downside of statutory inspector general, which may not work as well within the culture and the secrecy requirements of the intelligence agencies in the intelligence community.
So we Republicans tried to be especially supportive of the House Democratic majority regarding the House report requirement language. We did this partly because we believe it was the right thing to do, and partly out of a desire to promote bipartisan cooperation. Then we found that we had nearly eroded our own position as the majority adopted the subsequent Senate provisions for a statutory inspector general. Thus we were left effectively with an untenable
bargaining position. This is disturbing, since we Republicans said we were willing to require an inspector general later, if interim solutions proved unsatisfactory. This erosion of our position will obviously make Republicans more wary of such agreements in the future.
I have to say, though, that the CIA's recalcitrance regarding any congressional access to inspector general reports was a large part of its own undoing. Vociferous CIA opposition to committee access to inspection reports designed to assess how well the CIA is doing its job in specific areas was often based on poor legal and political reasoning, and was predictably counterproductive.
These attitudes and policies did give the majority some reason to question the CIA's preference of proceeding more slowly and moderately. Nevertheless, Republicans continue to feel that the Congress must act circumspectly and responsibly, looking to the long-term effectiveness of the inspector general and of U.S. intelligence, even when the agency has provided an open invitation to do otherwise.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to add my best wishes to Tom Latimer, the chief staffer of the Committee on Intelligence, for all the wonderful work and service he provided the committee and the Government and the people of this country over these last many years. We wish him all the best as he embarks on his retirement.
Finally, I would like to say that other than the issue of the CIA inspector general, I do support this conference report, but like my colleague from Illinois, I would like to reserve my right to sustain the President's veto, should he choose to sustain.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from New York [Mr. McHugh], who serves with distinction as chairman of the Subcommittee on Legislation.
Mr. McHUGH. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from California who serves with real distinction as chairman of our committee. I think he and the gentleman from Illinois have provided extraordinary leadership to our committee, and despite the fact that from time to time we have differences on policy matters, those differences are relatively rare, and in any case, do not interfere with the very smooth working relationships that all members on this committee have.
I rise in support of the conference report which I believe is a well-balanced and successful effort to reconcile this Nation's intelligence needs with the budget realities we face. The conference report contains several legislative provisions which in the main are intended to improve congressional oversight of intelligence activities, improve the operational and administrative efficiency of this Nation's intelligence agencies, or improve the working conditions and benefits of those who work for the intelligence agencies.
As usual, the staff of our committee has done an exceptional job in assisting the committee in all of its work. I also want to add my word of admiration and thanks to Tom Latimer, who has served for many years as our staff director. Without the work of Tom Latimer and the staff as a whole, we certainly would be unable to meet our responsibilities on this sensitive committee.
We also have been assisted on this particular bill by a number of other committee staff members on other committees, as well as fellow members on those committees, and we want to express our appreciation to them for their cooperation.
Mr. Speaker, the conference report does not contain provisions from the Senate-passed bill which would have established a new statutory framework for intelligence oversight, including procedures governing Presidential authorization and reporting of cover actions.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Legislation, it is appropriate for the record to make mention of why that is the case. The House conferees opposed the provisions, because although they contain several improvements over existing law, they did not really address the fundamental legislative issues which were at the heart of the Iran-Contra scandal; namely, the grounds on which the President can dispense with prior notice to the Intelligence Committees of covert actions, and, when prior notice is not given, the time within which notice must be given.
In 1989, Congress enacted a law which stated that the President must give the Intelligence Committees, or in extraordinary cases an eight-member leadership group, the so-called gang of eight, prior notice of covert actions.
The law recognizes that in some cases, left undefined in the statute, the President could withhold prior notice, and thereafter give notice `in a timely fashion.'
The legislative history made clear that prior notice could be dispensed with only when the press of events required action before Congress could be notified, and that notice must then be given soon after.
In the Iran-Contra affair the President authorized and initiated a covert action without giving the Intelligence Committees or the gang of eight notice until the policy was revealed in a foreign newspaper 10 months later. The Department of Justice then issued a legal opinion concluding that the President had complied with the 1980 statute because the President had `virtually unfettered discretion' in deciding when to provide notice of a covert action.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees responded to these events in the last Congress by reporting legislation which, among other things, permitted the President to dispense with prior notice only when time was of the essence and, in such cases, required notice not later than 48 hours after the Presidential authorization of the covert action. These provisions were included in both the House and Senate bills last year.
The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 71 to 19, but never reached the House floor.
The notice provision contained in the Senate authorization bill this year merely restated the current law calling for notice in a timely fashion if prior notice is not given. In report language, the Senate Intelligence Committee stated its belief that notice in a timely fashion meant `in a few days,' and the President sent a letter to some Senators stating that although the Justice Department believes timely notice leave the President unfettered discretion, he would in most cases provide notice `in a few days.'
Mr. Speaker, in my judgment and in the judgment of majority of the House conferees, report language and a Presidential letter are not sufficient. The statute would still say `in a timely fashion,' the same language under which President Reagan withheld notice in Iran-Contra. The Department of Justice opinion is still in effect. And the President still believes that in some cases he can withhold notice of a covert action from Congress not because he didn't have time to give notice, but because the Intelligence Committees or the Gang of Eight cannot be trusted with the secret.
Accordingly, we chose not to accept the Senate language. As the chairman of our committee has noted, we will address the issue again in the next session in the hope of resolving it once and for all.
I urge adoption of the conference report.
Mr. Speaker, once again I urge my colleagues to support this conference report, which I think is a constructive report.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Williams). The Chair would advise that the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde] has 18 minutes remaining.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I shall be very brief.
I just want to respond very briefly to the gentleman from New York [Mr. McHugh], a most valuable member of our committee, to say that there is a difference of opinion about the subject matter just raised.
Forty-eight is much too inflexible. The time within which Members are to be notified ought to vary depending on the nature of the operation and not the tick of the clock.
I might also point out that I agree that the law which says `in a timely fashion' was not followed by the Reagan administration, and that 10 months later can hardly by any stretch of the English language or the imagination be construed to be `in a timely fashion.' But when the law is not observed, it does not serve as a predicate for changing the law, it serves as a predicate for enforcing the law and indicating to those who have treated it so casually that they are wrong and that there is a political price to pay for that.
Mr. Speaker, I would hate to see the President constrained by a mechanical time limit, if such a thing could be done constitutionally, which I seriously doubt, because there are operations where one needs time, where one needs secrecy, although I say parenthetically, one would never know it from reading the daily papers. I do not think the word `covert' has any meaning anymore.
Nevertheless, I think we can save the discussion for another day, because it is a very important one. I do concede that `family fashion' is a good standard, was not observed, and it ought to have been observed. As I say, we will discuss that on another day.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to announce I have no further request for time, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I, too, yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the conference report.
The previous question was ordered.
The conference report was agreed to.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.