One day after President Bush signed into law a bill that requires public disclosure of the national intelligence budget, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to prevent that requirement from taking effect.
If implemented, it would mark the first time that Congress successfully asserted its authority to compel disclosure of currently classified information over the objections of the executive branch. Since 1998, the intelligence bureaucracy has consistently refused to divulge the intelligence budget total. The White House stated on February 28 that budget disclosure “could cause damage to the national security interests of the United States.”
The opposing view, adopted by the 9/11 Commission and endorsed by Congress last month, is that budget disclosure is an indispensable precondition to broader accountability and that it is essential to restoring the credibility of a defective classification system.
But despite the fact that the requirement to disclose the intelligence budget has finally passed into law, it may not happen after all.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) offered an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act on August 4 that would prohibit budget disclosure. Without any debate, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) announced that the amendment was accepted.
The Issa amendment will have to be addressed in a House-Senate conference before it effectively repeals the new disclosure requirement.
Update: See further coverage of this story in “Powerful Democrat agrees to block disclosure of intelligence budget” by John Byrne, Raw Story, August 7; and “Congress Rethinks New Intel Budget Law” by Jim Abrams, Associated Press, August 7.