Associated Press
July 24, 2002

House Set to OK Intelligence Funding

By KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - With some of its members openly apprehensive, the House is ready to take up President Bush's demand for more spending on intelligence gathering.

Lawmakers, who are expected to consider the proposal Wednesday, say intelligence agencies have not done what is needed to deal with communications problems and other shortcomings.

Still, the House Intelligence Committee endorsed what it described as a substantial intelligence budget for the fiscal year beginning in October. The figure is classified but is believed in the $35 billion range. "I don't think there's any question by members of the committee that resources are just one part of the much-needed reforms that need to take place across the intelligence community," said Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., a committee member.

Steven Aftergood, who monitors intelligence for the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, called the committee's position "a remarkable conundrum."

"They're saying we need to spend more on intelligence, but the money we're spending will reinforce an obsolete system," he said.

In a report accompanying the intelligence bill, the committee said intelligence agencies haven't done enough to strengthen their ability to analyze information, improve language skills and address communications problems.

"Information sharing," it said, is "the exception rather than the norm." It also said intelligence agencies are too dependent on help from allies to collect information.

A senior intelligence official, close to the CIA's clandestine information-gathering operations, rejected both points.

He said cooperation between the agencies is excellent, and much information is shared with improvements to come. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the agency is getting more and better information on its own than ever before.

The committee's report said the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where prisoners from Afghanistan are being held, symbolizes many of the intelligence agencies' problems. It has struggled with too few linguists, interrogators and intelligence officers in the field, it said. "Interagency cooperation has also, at times, been an issue," it said.

The committee also expressed misgivings about the cost of the Global Hawk unmanned spy plane. It said its price has climbed from $10 million each to at least $35 million and could reach $70 million. That could make it "too expensive to risk losing" and limit its use, the committee said.

Other problems it cited included failure by intelligence agencies to recognize the threat posed by militant Islamic groups and a lack of emphasis on traditional spying by agents in the field.

Many of these problems already have been identified in a series of reviews of intelligence agencies, including a joint inquiry by the House and Senate intelligence committees into the Sept. 11 attacks.

The inquiry continued its series of private hearings Tuesday. Lawmakers heard from witnesses from the Treasury Department and other U.S. agencies who discussed efforts to block the financing of terrorist organizations.

In its bill, the committee tried to help the shortage of linguists by including $10 million for higher-education foreign language training in languages considered critical to national security.

Roemer has proposed an amendment that would create a civilian linguist reserve corps to help intelligence agencies. He also is trying to attach an amendment to the intelligence bill that would establish an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House has opposed such a commission.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press