House Oks Budget for Spy Agencies

Article excerpt

In a speedy voice vote, with little debate, the House approved on Thursday an intelligence-gathering budget of approximately $28 billion.

Members voted after going to a guarded room in the Capitol to view the legislation's full text.

The bill authorizes spending for the CIA, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the espionage agencies of the military service, FBI and Energy Department.

House members were forbidden by self-imposed secrecy rules to discuss the total amount of the bill. Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said this year's final version, which needs only a vote by the Senate to go to President Bill Clinton, comes in slightly below last year's intelligence budget. That spending plan reportedly also was about $28 billion.

A key ingredient leading to the reduced total this year was congressional anger over funding of the National Reconnaissance Office, a super-secret spy satellite agency. Its existence was classified until three years ago.

Last year, lawmakers were outraged when they learned that the office was building a huge plant in suburban Virginia for $302 million. This year, the anger grew when lawmakers discovered that the same office had carried over roughly $1.5 billion in unspent funds from its previous year's budget.

In response, Congress slashed out more than $1 billion of the office's budget in the new bill, and shifted most of those funds to the Pentagon's general budget. A smaller amount went to pay for increases in other intelligence programs. Libya, Iran Sanctions

The Senate has passed a bill that would punish foreign companies that invest in the oil industries of Libya or Iran, both on the State Department's list of countries exporting terrorism.

The bill was passed on a voice vote and without debate Wednesday, the eve of the seventh anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. …