Magazine article Newsweek

Intel Reform: Did Bush Push Hard?

Magazine article Newsweek

Intel Reform: Did Bush Push Hard?

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Isikoff and Eleanor Clift

The White House publicly bemoaned Congress's failure to pass a sweeping measure to overhaul the U.S. intelligence community--a top 9/11 Commission recommendation--and said it would press to revive the bill soon. But behind the scenes, the White House's support has been less than vigorous, reflecting ambivalence on the part of many in the administration, especially the Pentagon, about the idea of creating an all-powerful new intelligence czar. Aides said President George W. Bush, while on Air Force One on his way to Chile, called one of the two principal congressional holdouts--House judiciary committee chairman Jim Sensenbrenner--in an effort to break the legislative logjam. But Sensenbrenner tells NEWSWEEK that Bush was "extremely low-key" during their conversation and never pressured him. ("He knows that arm-twisting with me... is not the way to go," he adds.) After their phone chat, Bush authorized a White House aide to push for one of Sensenbrenner's pet proposals to make it more difficult for foreigners to claim political asylum. When Senate negotiators balked, Sensenbrenner stood his ground. A few days later, Sensenbrenner met with Vice President Dick Cheney for a prearranged meeting about legislative priorities for next year, and the veep never even raised intel reform. Sensenbrenner says he brought up the subject, and then explained to Cheney why the bill went south. Cheney, who has a "mind like a steel trap," just listened, he says.

The White House's relative passivity has frustrated some 9/11 commissioners and family members. …

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