WASHINGTON – More than a dozen current and former members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say a leading bill to overhaul the intelligence community won't give the proposed national intelligence director (search) enough power to do the job effectively.
In a letter to the leaders of the Governmental Affairs Committee (search) on Monday, the 14 senators said the panel's current proposal does not give the new director enough authority to take charge of the daily operations of the 15 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence apparatus.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Governmental Affairs panel, led by Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, is scheduled to complete the legislation that she drafted with the committee's top Democrat, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
A congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some senators believe the Collins-Lieberman bill would allow the new director to "task" — or direct — various agencies who are part of the intelligence community. But they want the bill to go a step further and give the director day-to-day operational control, the aide said.
The 14 Republican and Democratic senators say it's necessary to ensure the director is in charge and accountable.
Since the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks released its report in July, Congress has been working to draft legislation to restructure the intelligence community before adjourning for the Nov. 2 elections.
President Bush (search) has supported the creation of a new, more powerful national intelligence director, but significant debate has centered on how much power that person should have.
The Senate Intelligence Committee traditionally handles intelligence matters. But the Senate leadership asked the Governmental Affairs Committee to handle the ongoing reform debate. Governmental Affairs played a leading role in the creation of the Homeland Security Department.
"Right now, the Government Affairs Committee has that jurisdiction in the writing a bill; we have some suggestions for that bill," Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said at a hearing Monday.
Aides for Lieberman and Collins could not be reached Monday night.
In addition to Roberts, the 13 other senators who signed the letter were: Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.; Kit Bond, R-Mo.; Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Trent Lott, R-Miss.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. Former Intelligence Chairmen Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Bob Graham, D-Fla., also signed on.
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who is on the Governmental Affairs panel, was also included.