Congress moots intelligence overhaul bill

Another layer of federal bureaucracy

The intelligence overhaul bill that the 9/11 Commission inspired, and the President says he wants, but has done little to promote, might just squeak through Congress this week.

After passing the Senate, it got tied up in the House last week due to Republican intransigence. The idea of placing another layer of federal bureaucracy over the various military, paramilitary, and civilian agencies involved in intel and national security has struck some conservatives as a recipe for monumental intelligence foul-ups. The idea of shifting some military support organizations, like the National Security Agency (NSA), for example, to civilian control, likewise strikes several members as bogus.

Supporters of the legislation point out that unless someone has overall authority, it will be impossible to force these agencies to work and play well with others. Someone has got to ensure that information gets to those most in need of it and most able to use it, as quickly as possible. No one argues with that; the question is whether another federal bureaucracy is the way to get it done.

This weekend, the President used his weekly radio address to lobby for the bill. Of course, he had no choice. After campaigning on a platform of, essentially, "vote for us or terrorists will kill you," he is in no position to reject any major package with counterterrorist airs, however ill conceived it might be.

"The many elements of our intelligence community must function seamlessly, with an overriding mission: to protect America from attack by terrorists or outlaw regimes," the President said. He characterized the bill as "a strong new law [that will] make America more secure".

And if his last-minute appeal fails, no one can say he didn't take a swing at it. ®

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