Congressional Intelligence Oversight in Jeopardy

In a “shocking and inexcusable” action that may threaten the institution of congressional intelligence oversight, an anonymous Senator yesterday blocked Senate consideration of the pending Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2007. No intelligence authorization bill has been passed by Congress for the past two years.

If Congress remains unable to legislate an intelligence authorization act, which is the principal product of the intelligence oversight committees each year, then the committees themselves could be rendered irrelevant, officials say.

“The Senate’s failure to pass this critical national security legislation for the past 2 years is remarkably shocking and inexcusable,” said an angry Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“The result of this continued obstruction will be diminished authority for intelligence agencies to do their job in protecting America. I hope the [anonymous] Senator involved takes satisfaction in that,” Senator Rockefeller said March 6.

The Senator who is holding up the bill is Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), according to Tim Starks of Congressional Quarterly.

Sen. DeMint “is said to be concerned about provisions of the bill that require the Bush administration to report to Congress on its detention policies, such as those pertaining to its secret CIA prisons, as well as a provision to declassify the total intelligence budget,” CQ reported on March 6.

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