Intelligence Test

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

Intelligence Test


Byline: Frank Gaffney Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

We may have dodged a bullet. In its postelection lame duck session, the 108th Congress continued resisting intense pressure to approve a bill purporting to fix the U.S. intelligence community.

Unless legislators are compelled to return after Thanksgiving for this purpose, the nation will have been spared a well-intentioned but ultimately counterproductive plan - one that purportedly addresses problems with the excessive bureaucracy and insufficient competitive intelligence collection and analysis, yet in ways certain to result in more of the former and less of the latter.

Thanks for this stay of execution are due principally to three chairmen: the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, leaders respectively of the House Armed Services and House Judiciary Committees.

For their courage in the face of intense pressure from the September 11 Commission and families, the White House, other legislators and the press, these men have earned this column's coveted "Horatius at the Bridge" award, named for the ancient Roman who, according to legend, saved his city by singlehandedly blocking an enemy horde.

Unlike the centuries-spanning fame earned by Horatius for his feat, those who have recently performed with similar valor received nothing but harsh criticism. Presumably, this is because advocates of the intelligence reform bill understand a simple reality: The only way their legislation - or at least some of its most dubious provisions - could become law is if Congress were denied the opportunity fully to consider and debate such "reforms."

It is no small irony that, at the same moment these Horatii are being castigated for opposing haste-makes-waste legislating, Capitol Hill is in tumult over language in another bill - the omnibus appropriations act - that could only have been adopted under similar circumstances.

In the latter case, when no one was looking, a couple of staffers reportedly inserted a wildly controversial provision affording heretofore unimaginable congressional access to individuals tax returns.

The bipartisan outrage over this dark-of-night maneuver was expressed Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who rightly called it a prime example of how "the [legislative] system is broken." Unfortunately, the same broken system produced the current September 11 intelligence reform bill. In both cases, far-reaching decisions about the legislation's final form were made behind closed doors by a handful of senators, representatives and staff. In both cases, artificial deadlines and the leadership's understandable desire to control the process affords the rest of Congress scarcely any opportunity even to review what is served up, let alone propose and adopt changes. …

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