December 1, 2006

That Was Then; This Is Now

Hatched by Dafydd

The headline says it all: Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion.

Not that that could stop me from saying even more!

Specifically, one of the most important findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a., the 9-11 Commission), from chapter 13 of the final report, is that appropriations for the clandestine agencies -- the CIA and the "national agencies," comprising the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) -- should be separated out from the normal Defense Department appropriations and handled via a special committee, or else by the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence.

Currently, intelligence-agency appropriations are under the purview of the Defense subcommittees of the Appropriations committees. But here is the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission:

Recommendation: Finally, to combat the secrecy and complexity we have described, the overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret. Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence, defending the broad allocation of how these tens of billions of dollars have been assigned among the varieties of intelligence work.

Earlier in the chapter, the Commission explained the problem quite clearly:

The current DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] is responsible for community performance but lacks the three authorities critical for any agency head or chief executive officer: (1) control over purse strings, (2) the ability to hire or fire senior managers, and (3) the ability to set standards for the information infrastructure and personnel. [The DCI position was terminated in April of last year in response to another recommendation of the 9-11 Commission; the head of the CIA now reverts to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who is under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence]....

When Congress passes an appropriations bill to allocate money to intelligence agencies, most of their funding is hidden in the Defense Department in order to keep intelligence spending secret. Therefore, although the House and Senate Intelligence committees are the authorizing committees for funding of the intelligence community, the final budget review is handled in the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations committees. Those committees have no subcommittees just for intelligence, and only a few members and staff review the requests.

The appropriations for the CIA and the national intelligence agencies- NSA, NGA, and NRO-are then given to the secretary of defense. The secretary transfers the CIA's money to the DCI but disburses the national agencies' money directly. Money for the FBI's national security components falls within the appropriations for Commerce, Justice, and State and goes to the attorney general.

This is absurdly cumbersome, hence dangerous to national security: in Congress, the committees that are supposed to control and provide oversight for the intelligence agencies, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, have no say over the budgets of the agencies they supposedly control.

While many recommendations of the 9-11 Commission were controversial, there is virtually no controversy among intelligence officers over this aspect: appropriations for intelligence agencies should be made by committees or subcommittees that are exclusively devoted to intelligence, not a wart on the behind of the Department of Defense. That means appropriations should either by handled by the Intelligence committees themselves (best) or at least by dedicated Intelligence subcommittees of the Appropriations committees (adequate).

There is, however, enormous controversy about this recommendation in Congress: on a nutshell, they just don't want to do it.

Robert Novak was on Hannity and Colmes yesterday, and he explained the problem succinctly:

  1. The Republicans never took up rearranging Congressional appropriations for the intelligence agencies, so they hardly have clean thumbs themselves;
  2. The Democrats campaigned on the promise -- it was one of only three they made -- to "fully implement the 9-11 Commission's recommendations." That would especially include this one, as the higgledy-piggledy nature of intelligence funding undermines the most important aspect of the GWOT;
  3. Yet now that the Democrats will be the majority, incoming Squeaker Nancy Pelosi is completely unwilling to take any appropriations authority away from her pal and loyal ally, Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 75%), who is pegged to be Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee of the Appropriations committee. [Yow!]

    (This is especially true after Pelosi's fiasco, trying to install the ethically challenged Mad Jack as Majority Leader, instead of Steny Hoyer -- who trounced Murtha in the caucus vote.)

So... what is the upshot of this "lame duck" period, leading up to the ascension of the Reality-Based Party to the petal-throne of Congressional control? Let's review the bidding:

  • The Democrats more or less campaigned on a promise to "redeploy" American troops out of Iraq and into next-door Okinawa before June 2007; in reality, they probably cannot even get a majority of the caucus to vote for that.
  • The Democrats absolutely, emphatically, almost hysterically campaigned on the promise to clean up "the Republican culture of corruption," leading to "the most ethical Congress in history;" but they have suddenly decided -- now that they will have the lion's share of power and attract the lion's share of funding from lobbyists -- that the most widely abused "legalized corruption" in Congress -- earmarks -- are just fine as they are and don't need any reform... not even the House rule enacted in the 109th Congress to open all earmarks to the light of day (a rule we predict will "softly and suddenly vanish away" when the 110th Congress convenes on January 4th, 2007).
  • The Democrats made virtually a fetish of campaigning on the promise to "fully implement" the 9-11 Commission's recommendations; but as soon as they won, they decided they would follow the lead of the outgoing GOP and refuse to implement the only remaining major recommendation that related to Congress -- because Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to take away any of Jack Murtha's consolation prize. I can't say what the excuse in the Senate will be; but rest assured, there will be one.

So in the three weeks since winning the midterm election, the Democratic majority has managed to betray their voters on all three of their major platform planks. That's even better than Bill Clinton managed!

Not a bad month's work; they may as well knock off now and go on holiday for the next 34 days. Or, heck, the next two years; America won't mind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 1, 2006, at the time of 4:54 AM

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» Anyone Surprised? from Flopping Aces
Anyone really surprised by this?It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined... [Read More]

Tracked on December 2, 2006 11:47 AM

» That Was Thener; This Is Even Nower from Big Lizards
This is an update to our previous post a couple of weeks ago, That Was Then, This Is Now. In that post, we linked to a Washington Post story about the Democrats rejecting the most important congressional reform of intelligence... [Read More]

Tracked on December 14, 2006 4:54 PM


The following hissed in response by: DrMalaka

I'm not sure the democrats betray their voters, I think they betray their country. Of course, what is not to like about earmarks when you are in the majority party. Hmmm, bribe your congressman with a million bucks and get twenty million back, that is a nice ROI. All these politicos are crooks. If you give me a million of your dollars I will give you twenty million of their dollars. Sounds a lot like "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Mothers Nancy and Hillary always know what is best for us, so long as it does not apply to them. Ask Nancy how many of her hotel employees (well she ain't poor) are unionized?

D: Did you get my link to the favorite icon site, I put it on the post about the money for the blind?

The above hissed in response by: DrMalaka [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2006 7:51 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin


You don't have enough bandwidth to cover the (insert adjective here) democrats agenda (and misscues) over the next two years.

But it may be in all of our interest if security measures and their appropriations remain under the reptillian micro-scope.

Good Luck my friend.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2006 8:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

The Democrats promises were vaporous to begin with. It is not surprising that the morning sun has evaporated them.

But hey, they still have that minimum wage thingy. Didn't they campaign on that?

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2006 9:43 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Did you get my link to the favorite icon site, I put it on the post about the money for the blind?

Yes I did, thank you. I've bookmarked it, but I haven't actually done anything yet: first I have to figure out a good picture; and then I might just crop an existing picture down to icon size instead!



The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 1, 2006 12:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: Beerme

Let's hope that Coburn and his allies can hold the "business-as-usual" congresscritters' feet to the fire or perhaps even get Bush to exercise a veto pen if they don't, as suggested in this article from Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward.
After all, you've got Barak Obama and other Dems who want to appeal to both sides of the aisle, due to their political aspirations. They may be interested in showing they are not part of the corrupt, business-as-usual crowd (of course, that's not to say that they're not actually part of the crowd, just that they want to portray themselves as exceptions to the rule). This could get interesting...

The above hissed in response by: Beerme [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 2, 2006 7:48 AM

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