Friday, November 10, 2006

Rockefeller’s priorities as Chair of Senate Intelligence Committee

Senator Jay Rockefeller will take over as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee from Republican Pat Roberts. Although much of this committee’s work is behind closed doors, it has been no secret that Rockefeller has been frustrated with the direction of the committee’s work. Congressional Quarterly had reviewed some of Rockefeller’s priorities.

This from CQ:

… He is dismayed by what he considers the FBI’s slow ansformation from a crime-busting agency to one focused heavily on countering terror threats. He also wants to scrutinize administration efforts to halt nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, and develop a more collaborative relationship with the Armed Services Committee, which also oversees intelligence.
He would like the intelligence community to take a longer view of terror threats. He advocates a 10-year plan that would address the roots of terrorism and pay close attention to emerging threats in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Rockefeller also intends to review how agencies are carrying out the 2004 intelligence overhaul law (PL 108-458). He wants to access whether they are producing assessments unbiased by political influences, tackling a major shortfall in foreign language skills, and improving intelligence collection from spies on the ground, not just satellites and other technological means.

Roberts and Rockefeller have warred over an investigation into Iraq prewar intelligence. They completed “Phase I” of the inquiry, which culminated in a report that heavily faulted the Central Intelligence Agency. But “Phase II” has been a different story. Democrats forced the Senate into closed session in 2005 to spotlight call attention to what they considered Roberts’ attempt to stall the probe and shelter the Bush administration from criticism. Republicans charged that Democrats were grandstanding.

Three parts remain unfinished in the five-part Phase II probe. Rockefeller has fought Roberts’ effort to expand a review of Bush administration statements in the war run-up to examine Democratic statements of that period as well. Roberts has overridden Rockefeller and postponed an examination of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans under former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, pending a Pentagon inspector general’s report. A third segment of the investigation, reviewing pre-war assessments of post-war Iraq, is still pending.

Rockefeller might be able to steer a new intelligence authorization bill through Congress. In 2005, the Senate did not pass an authorization measure for the first time since 1978, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., shelved this year’s version to block floor debate of Democratic amendments.

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