FAS | Secrecy | November 2001 News ||| Index | Search | Join FAS

Associated Press
November 8, 2001

Senate Approves Intelligence Bill

By CAROLYN SKORNECK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would beef up the intelligence services to strengthen America's ability to combat terrorism.

"Our legislation authorizes activities that will rebuild the foundation of our intelligence community so that we can meet the terrorism challenge," said Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the committee's top Republican, said, "The war we fight today is an intelligence-driven one to a degree that we have never seen before."

"This war has no front lines, and the field of combat is global," Shelby said. "Wherever terrorists and their supporters can be found, that is the battlefield. Never before have we demanded or have we needed so much from our intelligence services."

Intelligence spending is generally kept secret. But the CIA revealed, after being sued by the Federation of American Scientists, that such spending totaled $26.6 billion in 1997 and $26.7 billion in 1998, said Steven Aftergood of the federation. Since then, it's been estimated at about $30 billion a year.

The House-passed intelligence authorization bill, approved Oct. 5 by voice vote with no dissent, called for a 9 percent increase in spending, 2 percent above Bush's request.

The Senate bill, according to a congressional aide, is close to Bush's request, making it about a 7 percent increase.

The debate came as the Bush administration worked on proposals to restructure the entire intelligence community. A presidential panel is set to recommend next month that the United States give the CIA director operational and budget control over several military intelligence agencies.

Graham said the bill, much of which is classified, reflects certain priorities:

  • Revitalizing the National Security Agency that gathers and analyzes information from broadcasts, computers and other electronic means of communication, shifting the focus from intercepting broadcasts to tapping fiber-optic communication lines.

  • Correcting deficiencies in human intelligence collection. "We must recruit more effectively to operate in many places around the world where U.S. interests are threatened," Graham said, noting that the decades of focusing on one big target, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, are over.

    "In the post-Berlin Wall period, we're dealing with a wide diversity of targets ... and they speak many, many languages," he said. In Afghanistan alone, he said, besides Arabic and English, there are at least six domestic languages.

  • Correcting the imbalance between information collection and analysis that turns it into intelligence. "The percentage of this collected information that is analyzed and converted into useful intelligence has been steadily declining since 1990," he said.

  • Funding for a robust research and development initiative, reversing declining investment in this area.

    Graham also looked to future development of what he called "the newest form of intelligence," measurements and signatures intelligence. Through such intelligence, a satellite that detects the heat and trajectory of an object, for example, could tell if it is carrying a weapon of mass destruction and where it's headed.

    Given the unpredictability of the current global situation, the Senate agreed to an amendment that would let the Senate and House conferees - who will meet to resolve differences between the two bills - make whatever changes are needed to respond to events that occur between now and final passage of the bill.

    The Senate bill includes an amendment by Sen. Robert Smith, R-N.H., to make it easier for the Justice Department to use the Alien Terrorist Removal Court to keep people out of the country. It would do so by letting the government share classified information about the alien only with the judge, excluding defense attorneys.

    The Senate approved it after agreeing to a Graham amendment that would prevent it from taking effect for at least three months as the attorney general conducts a study on why the court has not been used.

    Copyright 2001 Associated Press

  • FAS | Secrecy | November 2001 News ||| Index | Search | Join FAS