Panel sets 'bold and broad' course for intelligence

Without disclosing any details, House Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., said Tuesday his committee has agreed upon a wide-ranging reauthorization of the nation's intelligence agenda and will try to bring it to the House floor for a vote next week.

Goss expressed his "full confidence" that the legislation, which his committee agreed upon late Monday, will address many of the problems plaguing America's intelligence agencies and provide a "bold and broad new framework" for modernizing and expanding the reach of both the covert part of spying and the technology needed to collect and analyze the mountains of information gathered by the country's various intelligence operatives.

"Our bill will help us do a better job not only in detecting and neutralizing terrorists, but also in reducing international narcotics trafficking and on keeping track of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Goss said.

The details of the bill itself are highly classified. Even its price tag bears a non-disclosure label. But reliable estimates of the cost have been put by various experts at more than $30 billion in fiscal 2002.

Goss said the legislation, as well as the dozen or so agencies that are financed by it, generally focuses on four major concerns:

  • Human intelligence, which involves chiefly the infiltration of groups and countries that are enemies of the United States. "We must invest more broadly in HUMINT," Goss said. "We've under-invested in it for more than a decade, and it was done deliberately. And now we are paying for it. We definitely need to get into the darker corners of our enemies' camps."
  • Analysis of collected information. "This goes to the tasking, processing, exploitation, and internal dissemination of all the data we amass," Goss explained. "We need to put all this information through our various systems in a timely fashion so our policy makers are able to make sense of it and act on it." He said, "That there is a persisting shortage of trained intelligence analysts who must sift through the giant haystack of information we collect to find the little needles that are really important."
  • Technology, including research and development, to close the gap between our intelligence-gathering capabilities and our enemies' ability to try to stay a step ahead of us. "We need to reach out to private enterprise," Goss said, "to not only protect our own technology but to exploit that of our enemies."
  • Change the culture and technological capacity of the National Security Agency, NSA. "The NSA is one of the most stressed of our agencies and needs special attention," Goss said. "It is a huge enterprise that needs to be drop kicked into the end zone, whose old capabilities need to be brought into a new era." NSA is responsible for intercepting, deciphering, translating, and analyzing communications by real and potential enemies of the United States. It is also responsible for safe guarding America's communications and encryption.
In all of this, Goss went on, the select intelligence panel will insist on improved coordination among the United States' intelligence agencies--ranging from the CIA and NSA to the Defense Intelligence Agency and the FBI.

The House panel's version of the intelligence authorization bill closely tracks a similar measure reported earlier by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

One of the Senate bills' chief components is a provision calling for stepped-up recruitment and training of linguists, particularly those with proficiency in the languages of the Middle East and South Asia, and the recruitment of nationals to infiltrate terrorist groups and other targets of information so that U.S. analysts can better divine their motives and intentions, as well as their means and methods of spying on the United States.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec