Intelligence reauthorization bill retools information capabilities

The House voted 264-163 Thursday to approve a conference bill authorizing U.S. intelligence activities for fiscal 2004, barely a day after House and Senate conferees completed negotiations over the measure. Aides said Thursday evening, that it was unclear when the Senate would consider the conference report.

The bill would provide full support for the intelligence community's efforts in the war on terrorism and focus attention on the need to enhance human intelligence capabilities and tools, according to a summary by the House Intelligence Committee.

The bill would authorize more resources to improve analytical depth in all areas of intelligence, and increase analytical capacity to process, exploit, and disseminate collected intelligence, the committee said.

The bill addresses the need to improve government information sharing, one of the principal findings of a congressional inquiry into the events leading up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A GAO report in April found that the government still lacked any standardized or centralized method to monitor suspected terrorists.

The bill establishes a Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis within the Treasury Department, to be headed by an assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis, to learn more about financial support for terrorism.

And it would require the director of central intelligence to report on lessons learned as a result of military operations in Iraq.

The bill also would extend authority for the use of funds designated for intelligence and related purposes for counter-drug activities in Colombia, and would also fund counter-terrorism activities there in fiscal 2004.

Also included were provisions allowing limited immunity from tort liability to special police officers of the CIA and the National Security Agency. It authorizes limited liability for some agents and personnel ceilings for intelligence divisions.

A controversial provision opposed by the administration that would give the Defense Department authority to review CIA and other intelligence agencies' measurement and signature intelligence -- or MASINT -- programs survived the conference, based on conference language.

Its would give equal authority to both the Defense secretary and the director of central intelligence to oversee "basic research on sensors into the measurement and signatures intelligence systems of the United States." However, it also makes the "director of the Defense Intelligence Agency's Directorate for MASINT and Technical Collection" the point man for the effort.

It was not immediately clear how the White House would react to the language. However, an aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., said Thursday that the chairman remarked recently that MASINT is an important element of comprehensive intelligence coverage, and that while little is known about it, the unfamiliarity works to the U.S. government's advantage given the type of enemy now attacking Americans and U.S. interests here and abroad.

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