Mr. DeCONCINI. Madam President, today I had planned to address the status of the intelligence authorization bill, S. 1301. Articles in the press this morning make it even more imperative that I do so to set the record straight.
We have a very unfortunate situation on our hands, Madam President. We have been trying to bring the intelligence authorization bill to the floor now for several weeks. The latest obstacle in our path is a hold placed on our bill by several Republican Senators on the Committee on Armed Services.
Let me make it clear, their hold has nothing to do with the substance of the bill or the merits of the bill.
They have placed the hold on our bill because they believe, based upon an allegation from a confidential source, that the CIA has a classified document pertaining to a nominee before their committee, Morton Halperin. After an exhaustive search of its records, CIA cannot find the alleged document, and, in the meantime, our bill is being held hostage.
Madam President, since the hold was placed on our bill last week, we in the committee have been attempting to resolve this issue. We urged the CIA to complete its file searches in a prompt and diligent manner and provide an expeditious response to the Committee on Armed Services.
I asked them to extend that search, when one of the Members who has a hold on the bill indicated that there was another year they wanted searched. The CIA did that search and found nothing.
This has been the extent of our involvement from the committee point of view. I want to make it absolutely clear that we are not, as the Washington Times suggested this morning, investigating Mr. Halperin in the Intelligence Committee. This nomination has been referred to the Armed Services Committee, not the Intelligence Committee. I have offered to my Republican colleagues on the Armed Services Committee the assistance of our committee staff in interviewing the source of the allegation in question in hopes of obtaining further information that would be helpful to the search for the alleged document, but they have not accepted this offer.
We are not in the process of doing a full-scale investigation. But I think it would be proper for them to come forward and let us talk to the so-called alleged person who has this information.
In the meantime, the Director of the CIA, James Woolsey, has given me his personal assurance that a thorough search of CIA records has occurred, and that the alleged document cannot be located. He has also told me that individuals who ordinarily would have been aware of such a document have been interviewed and do not recall ever seeing the alleged document. That is the word of the Director and Madam President, that word is good enough for this Senator.
We had attempted to arrange a meeting yesterday morning between Director Woolsey and the key Senators on the Armed Services Committee so that Director Woolsey could provide them with the same personal assurances he had given me.
Unfortunately, Director Woolsey was not permitted to attend the meeting because of concerns on the part of the White House counsel, Mr. Nussbaum, that all communications to congressional committees concerning pending nominations be made through the FBI after clearance by the White House. I was very disappointed, indeed, and quite frankly, upset.
I think that under the circumstances that was an unfortunate decision. Nevertheless, I have absolutely no reason to think there is any effort here to cover up anything or to stonewall the Armed Services Committee. According to the Director, CIA has made a good-faith effort to locate the alleged document and cannot do so. In fact, the CIA on my request initiative extended the scope of the search by several years in regard to the request.
In the meantime, Madam President, our authorization bill languishes. The conferees on the Defense appropriations bill are meeting this week, and we have not gotten our authorization to the floor.
I wonder whether the Senators who are keeping our bill hostage appreciate the consequences of keeping us from acting. Let me take a moment to go over them.
To begin with, the absence of an intelligence authorization bill creates a serious legal problem for intelligence agencies. Section 504 of the National Security Act of 1947 prohibits intelligence agencies from spending appropriated funds that have not also been specifically authorized by the Congress. This requirement was written into law to ensure that the special oversight committees created by each House would have a say in all funding decisions involving intelligence activities. Without an authorization bill, we will be left with an untenable legal situation where, by law, intelligence agencies are precluded from spending funds that will be appropriated in the fiscal year 1994 appropriations bills.
It is also no exaggeration to say that this authorization bill represents a year's work by the Select Committee on Intelligence.
It reflects, as probably no other bill can, the direction being set up in the Intelligence Committee, reviewing each program in confidence, going over it with the Director in confidence, and then passing a bill and recommending it to the floor.
In this particular bill, we have authorized funds to deal with such critical problems as nonproliferation, terrorism, and support to U.S. military operations. We also establish long-term, far-reaching strategies for satellite architectures and processing capabilities.
Without a bill, the endless hours devoted to hearings, briefings, budget scrubs, and negotiations of sensible compromises will all have gone for naught.
Indeed, the institutional position of the committee vis-a-vis the agencies we oversee will necessarily have suffered.
Madam President, this is not a controversial bill. It is supported by the administration and has strong bipartisan support within the committee. It is being subjected to a hold in order to achieve a purpose that has nothing to do with the merits of the bill.
It is as if I were to place a hold on the Defense authorization bill because I was not satisfied that the Intelligence Committee had been given everything that a DOD agency might have concerning a nominee before our committee.
I would not do that, Madam President, because it would not be fair to the Armed Services Committee or to the Senate. It would not be fair to hold up legislation that is so important to our institutional process and to the functioning of our Government.
Madam President, there are many options available to Senators on the Armed Services Committee who are opposed to this nomination. I presume, as long as they are dissatisfied with the information being provided by the administration on the nominee, they can keep the nomination from coming to a vote. It makes no sense, however, and is particularly unfair to the Select Committee on Intelligence and its staff, which has spent the last year on this bill, to keep our authorization bottled up.
I am hopeful, Madam President, that those who are now holding up our bill will yet release their hold and let us proceed.
I hope that the Senators will consider pulling off the hold and fighting their nomination fights someplace else, which ought not be on this bill.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona's time has expired.
Mr. WARNER. Madam President, it had been my intention to join the distinguished chairman in this colloquy, since I have the privilege of serving as the vice chairman. I did not know that the chairman was coming to the floor at this particular time.
Is there a possibility, I inquire of the Chair, whereby the vice chairman may have an equal amount of time within which to provide a reply to the very important statements made by the distinguished chairman?
Mr. DeCONCINI. Madam President, I have no objection to that.
The reason that this Senator brought this to the floor now is, after reading the article in the paper this morning, this is the first opportunity I have had to get here to refute what was in the paper. I would have no objection at all if the Senator wants to propound a unanimous-consent request to have 7 minutes or whatever time he wants.
Mr. WARNER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Virginia be afforded a period of time equal to that afforded to the Senator from Arizona.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection.
Without objection, it is so ordered.