WASHINGTON – President Bush is threatening to veto a Senate intelligence bill that's laced with provisions that would force the White House and spy agencies to be more responsive to Congress.
In a policy statement released Thursday, Bush's advisers said the bill fails to provide enough money, "with sufficient flexibility," to adequately pay for spying operations.
The Senate has struggled for two years to pass a spending blueprint for the roughly $45 billion-a-year spying budget. Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., made the legislation a top priority when he took over in January.
"These provisions are all intended to improve our ability to make decisions, leading to better intelligence for the military and policy makers," Rockefeller said on the Senate floor.
Bush issued the only veto of his presidency last year, killing a bill on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research. But since the Democrats assumed congressional control, Bush has been warning more often that he will nix legislation.
Among the provisions in the intelligence bill that the Bush administration rejects:
—Yearly disclosure of the total amount spent on intelligence. The administration has long argued that releasing the figures would be a threat to national security.
—When lawmakers with jurisdiction ask for intelligence assessments and other information, the bill requires spy chiefs to turn the materials over within 15 days. The measure "would foster political gamesmanship and elevate routine disagreements to the level of constitutional crises," the administration says.
—A mandate that the White House brief all members of the intelligence committees on extraordinarily sensitive matters — not just congressional and intelligence committee leaders, as is often the practice now.
—Required reports on interrogation activities and secret prisons, which the administration says would raise "grave constitutional issues" and jeopardize sensitive information that should not be widely distributed.
—Creation of a statutory inspector general for Office of the Director of National Intelligence who would have the power to direct watchdogs in any of the 16 spy agencies. The administration says the existing watchdogs are best suited to do the job without "dysfunctional interference" from the proposed new inspector general.
—A requirement that the heads of the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office be subject to Senate confirmation, as well as the CIA's deputy director. The administration calls that unnecessary.