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CIA: The Use Of Journalists

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Excerpts from the vote and debate on the Intelligence Authorization bill
on the House floor
Sacred Cow and The Use of Journalists
from the Congressional Record
(pages H5389-H5424).
May 22, 1996,

Rep. Norman Dicks(D-Wash.; ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee): Mr. Chairman, throughout my tenure on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence I have been a constant proponent of covert action. When used properly in support of foreign policy, covert action is an effective weapon in a diplomats arsenal. To ensure our capability to conduct successful covert action activities, an infrastructure must be maintained that will permit the CIA to undertake covert action activities on short notice yet with the necessary support base required for successful operations. I believe that the bill before us today satisfies my concern that such a capability be sustained at an appropriate level. While the need for engaging in covert activities may be minimal today, nobody can predict the future. Therefor, maintaining a prudent infrastructure acts as an insurance policy for our Nation and I am pleased to recognize that our bill provides our citizens with the necessary coverage.
Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.):Section 421(c) does not require that the offender had authorized access to classified information. It is aimed at the Agee-style exposure of covert identities and proves as follows:
Whoever in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual's classified intelligence relationship to the United States shall be fined not more than $150,000 or imprisoned not more than three years or both * * *
Section 421(c) places particular emphasis on a discloser's ``pattern of activities'' which could include seeking unauthorized access to classified information counterintelligence activities such as physical or electronic surveillance or the systematic collection of information ``for the purpose of identifying the names of agents.'' Section 421(c) also requires that the government prove that the discloser had reason to believe that the activities in which he was engaged would impair U.S. foreign intelligence activities.
Having summarized the relevant provisions of the act, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my concern about the apparent unwillingness of the Justice Department to enforce this particular law in several recent cases involving public officials and journalists. Because of the obvious sensitivity involved in naming names of intelligence officers, I will refrain from providing details on the security investigations and potential cases that have been set aside for a variety of reasons by the Justice Department. Nevertheless, I am most concerned that a significant number of unauthorized disclosures of U.S. intelligence agents and assets in the U.S. media during the past year or so have resulted in significant and measurable damage to our intelligence capabilities in Latin America and Europe. A more aggressive enforcement posture by the Department of Justice would do much to reassure our allies and restore the confidence of our public servants who are serving as intelligence officers in often hazardous assignments. Mr. Chairman, I strongly urge a ``yes'' vote in favor of this amendment as a signal from the House that enforcement of this act will be a national security priority, and that we intend to oversee in that the Justice Department vigorously enforce this act. It must be enforced, and I urge a yes vote on the sense of the Congress resolution that is encompassed in this amendment.
Nevertheless, I am most concerned that a significant number of unauthorized disclosures of U.S. intelligence agents and assets in the U.S. media during the past year or so have resulted in significant and measurable damage to our intelligence capabilities in Latin America and Europe. A more aggressive enforcement posture by the Department of Justice would do much to reassure our allies and restore the confidence of our public servants who are serving as intelligence officers in often hazardous assignments.
Rep. Bill Richardson(D-N.M.)
reprinted the following article:

[From the New York Times, Mar. 21, 1996]
Journalists Aren't the Only Risky C.I.A. Cover
Washington, March 19, 1996.
Re `` No Press Card for Spies''
(editorial, March 18).

To The Editor: Do you think it wrong if journalists are used as cover by the Central Intelligence Agency, but all right for others to have integrity and lives put in question? Members of the clergy and Peace Corps volunteers were also singled out by the Council on Foreign Relations' Intelligence Task Force project director as potential candidates for C.I.A. cover, but you say nothing in their defense. They and others--for example, human rights monitors and relief workers--work abroad in dangerous areas. The mere suspicion of association with the C.I.A. will make them as vulnerable as journalists to arrest and questioning and, much worse, will call into question the integrity of the institutions they represent. Not a few members of the Council on Foreign Relations, myself included, were deeply disturbed by the task force's proposal. Our concern was not just for its impact on journalists.
Roberta Cohen

Rep. Bernard Sanders(I-Vt.): Mr.. Chairman, let me read for my colleagues an article that appeared in the May 16 New York Times. I am going to read this slowly, because I want the Members to appreciate what we are talking about today and why it is totally irresponsible for any Member to be talking about a 4.9 increase in funding. Let me quote for the article:

``In a complete collapse of accountability, the government agency that builds spy satellites accumulated about $4 billion in uncounted secret money, nearly twice the amount previously reported to Congress, intelligence officials acknowledge today.''

Mr. Chairman, let us repeat what was in the New York Times so that every Member understands what this debate is about. I quote from the New York Times;

``In a complete collapse of accountability, the government agency that builds spy satellites accumulated about $4 billion in uncounted secret money, nearly twice the amount previously reported to Congress.''

Let me continue from the New York Times:

``The agency, the highly secretive national reconnaissance office, said last year that the surplus money totaled no more than about $1 billion. Congressional intelligence overseers in December said the amount was about $2 billion. They were misinformed. The secret agency was unaware until very recently exactly how much money it had accumulated in its classified compartments.''

Listen to this, to put the $4 billion in perspective, still quoting New York Times,

``what the national reconnaissance office did was to lose track of a sum roughly equal to the annual budgets for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department combined.''

Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts : Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. SANDERS: I yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts :Mr. Chairman, I support the gentleman, but I begin to get second thoughts because maybe we have found a way to really cut the deficit. This hidden money that we lost track of started out at a billion. Then within a couple of months it was $2 billion. Now it is $4 billion. There is not revenue source in the Federal Government growing at so rapid a rate. Maybe we ought to leave these people alone, because at the rate these people salt away money and have it increase, pretty soon we will get rid of the deficit.
Mr. Chairman, how are we going to have credibility with the American people when we say to hungry kids, we have got to cut back on nutrition programs, when we say to homeless people, there is not enough money available for affordable housing, when we say to elderly people, the Congress cannot help you pay for the prescription drugs you desperately need, when we say there is not enough money for education and have got to cut back and then, after this horrendous financial irresponsibility on the part of an intelligence community, we say, hey, no problem, you need more money, we are there to help you out. This is wrong. This is not what deficit reduction is about. This is a horrendous sense of national priorities. For all of those Members who have been cutting, cutting, cutting, who have been coming up here every day talking about the national debt, I ask you to support my amendment, a 10-percent cut in the intelligence budget.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Texas for yielding, I thank him for his graciousness with which he is managing this debate, but I do have concern about the $4 billion. My question is: When we discovered that there was $4 billion that was unspent because, as he said, it turned out that they did not need to spend it, did we recapture that for the U.S. Treasury and use it to reduce the deficit? My problem is that my information is, no, the people who in fact were responsible for the overspending and no accounting essentially were allowed to spend it for other purposes or give it to the Defense Department, which means they have been given them zero incentive not to do this again. And if, in fact, it was unneeded spending, why did we not recapture it and apply it to reducing the deficit? Mr. COMBEST. The gentleman does make a point, and he is correct in the fact that it was not taken and it was not used toward the deficit. Let me mention to the gentleman from Massachusetts the $4 billion only is recently. We are still looking to find the fact amount. Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Is there more? Maybe can we hope? Mr. COMBEST. Well, hopefully not, but it did begin at 1, and, as we know, went to 2. The committee has been kept informed of this, of the additional amounts that continue to be uncovered, but of the amount last year, over $2 billion has been taken. Some of that was taken by other committees. Some of it was taken by the Director of Central Intelligence and expended for----
Rep. Norm Dicks:We have no evidence whatsoever that any of this money was wrongly spent. The money would have ultimately been spent for each of these programs. The mistake of the NRO was not keeping Congress properly informed about the total of those carryforward funds. That is what we objected to, and we were very upset about it. The Director of Central Intelligence, Mr. Deutsch, was very upset about it. He has taken steps to appoint a chief financial officer to get these accounts in order. The money is no longer there, I want to point out to my colleagues. Some of it was used in Bosnia, some of it was used for other defense purposes, the administration took part of it in terms of their budget request. So that balance has been reduced to a much smaller level, and again there is some management reason to have modest reserves in each of these line items.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts : I must tell my friend from Texas I am less reassured by that than I might have been, given the fact that after we passed that conference report and it was signed into law, the unobligated, unaccounted for secret surplus went from $2 billion to $4 billion. So this restriction on them did not appear to lay a glove on them because they passed this tough restriction, and then we find out months after they pass the restriction that it was $4 billion instead of $2 billion. Maybe our colleagues should stop trying to restrict them, because they are not doing too well.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts: My point was, and I must say I am again unreassured that these crack intelligence people who are so terrific cannot keep track of the money. I will say, in fairness to them, I do not think this was lousy accounting, I think this was cleverness on their part, knowing that they can build this up and those guys are going to spend it. But the point I want to make is this: The chairman said, ``You came up with a way to prevent this from happening last year, and what happened? It got worse after you presented it.'' So I am saying it is --
Mr. SANDERS.Mr. Chairman, my friend from Washington will recall that last year, same time, same place, we had the same debate. The gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Frank] and myself and others said we think we are spending too much on the intelligence, and we had leaders from both political parties coming forward saying they need every single nickel. And what we are hearing today is, in fact, that there was an unaccounted-for slush fund of $4 billion that, in fact, was not needed. We were right on the debate last time, and in due respect to my friend from Washington, his position was wrong. So the question now comes before us this year. I am not here to pass blame on any Member of the Congress.
Mr. DICKS:Mr. Chairman, I take back my time, and I say to my friend, first of all, I would not characterize this as a slush fund. I would characterize it as a management reserve for each of these important programs, and the money that Congress appropriated and authorized is needed at some point for these programs.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts: Yes, and I will explain what I said to the gentleman. I am sorry the gentleman and his colleagues have done, frankly, such a lousy job in letting these people put $4 billion away, and it was $1 billion and then $2 billion, and now it is $4 billion. Every time, they come up with more money. You explained to us how you had it under control. What happened, Mr. Chairman, was this: They were allowed to spend almost all of that on other purposes, not things that were not authorized, but they were allowed to spend more, because the accounts were added to. They were given that $4 billion, they were given a limit: You can spend so much on this and so much on that and so much there. And because they underspent here, they were allowed to reuse that. You have provided them with every incentive to keep fooling you, and fooling you they have been doing. You have not penalized them at all. If any other agency of the Federal Government got caught with a surplus of this percentage, there would be calls for resignations and impeachments and denunciations. Mr. Chairman, the $4 billion that was found, that was spent in addition to what was authorized in these purposes, that $4 billion is more than the amendment of the gentleman from Vermont would cut. You lost track of more money than we want to cut, so that is how, I think, unfounded it is for you to claim that this in any way jeopardizes it.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts: I will take back my time to say this, Mr. Chairman; the record is clear. As the gentleman from Vermont said, you always have an explanation of how everything is fine. I understand this is difficult. They are very sophisticated things they are doing. I do not believe it was an honest error. I believe they figured out a game. The central point I want to make is this, and I am not for hanging anyone, but the fact that an agency was able to accumulate a surplus greater than 10 percent of the total authorization here is an indication that you are giving them more money than they need for the purposes you say you are giving it to them for.
Rep. Jerry Lewis(R-Calif.): Defense has come down by approximately $100 billion. It is the presumption of many that since the cold war is over and since we are reducing our defense budget, that lightly we can just wipe out our intelligence needs.
I would suggest, Mr. Chairman, that the very people who are making this proposal are the same people who for all of their careers here have opposed our national defense, have not supported expanding the national defense when we truly needed to expand those budgets.
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio(D-Calif.): Now they are saying that they have found an extra $4 billion in their budget. Not to worry, $4 billion. We kill on the floor of the House of Congress, for a couple hundred thousand crummy dollars over here, and talk about welfare cheats and food stamp fraud and all that, and amounts of 10 or 20 or 30 thousands of dollars. But here is an agency that had $4 billion, more than the total appropriation of the FBI and the State Department for their general operations, and they just did not know it, and that does not need that. Never too much money. No; an extra $4 billion. I mean given the magnitude of their annual budget, secret number, we cannot know how much that is, they needed this $4 billion. They just did not know they had it and they did not know how to spend it. Now, there is something very, very wrong with this picture. They know everything that is going on. They are monitoring my speech on the floor, but they do not know how much money they have because they are so awash in funds, they cannot even be bothered to go out and buy a $39 software program to keep track of it. Now, that is absurd, absolutely absured, and to say that that agency cannot withstand a cut of 10 percent is indefensible. The burden lies on those who would defend it. They get $4 billion they have not been able to spend, they did not know they had, and now they cannot withstand a 10-percent cut of their annual budget, secret number, no one can know it.
Rep. Major R. Owens(D-N.Y.): Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment. The CIA is out of control. It is not just the $4 billion that they had lying around that they did not know that they had. There are many other ways that the CIA is out of control, and the CIA would greatly benefit from some downsizing and some streamlining. The CIA would greatly benefit from a cut in the funds that they have while they reorganize and regroup.
This is the agency that paid the salary of Emanuel Comstonce, who was the man who led the demonstration on the docks in Haiti when we were sending ships down there. We sent ships down there with a peacekeeping mission which had police, engineers, et cetera. They led a demonstration where they were shooting guns, intimidating the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy. It was led by a man named Emanuel Comstonce, who was on the payroll of the CIA. Emanuel Comstonce is right now in prison here in this country. They want to keep him here. They want to keep him isolated and quiet because he has confessed and he is telling: ``I was on the payroll of the CIA.'' This is an agency that is obviously out of control. It needs to be reexamined, downsized, streamlined. In modern society, any institution that operates in secrecy is in danger. Our complex society is such that any complex institutions needs to be open, so that other folks from outside the decisionmaking circles can be able to look at what is going on and offer some objective criticisms. The Soviet Union collapsed because its whole society was a closed circle of decisionmaking, and they made monumental errors which we are still discovering and still suffering from. Chernobyl, they did not have a nuclear commission that was open and people could talk to. They did not have a environmental movement. They would suppress anybody who tried to have a movement critical of anything, so they ruined their environment. The CIA is a closed circle of decisionmaking. The secrecy in the CIA guarantees that is always going to be a big problem. We need to open up as much as possible, not tell everything, but we can have a discussion of the budget. We should know the full amount of the budget. The New York Times estimates it is between $28 and $30 billion. We are talking about a 10-percent cut on $28 to $30 billion. We are talking about a 10-percent cut which will at the most amount to $3 billion.
Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr.(D-Ohio): Mr. Chairman, we have the stealth budget. This could be a stealth Buy American type of program.
Rep. Sam Brownback(R-Kans.): ``Sec. 110. (a) Provision of Intelligence Information to the United Nations.--(1) No United States intelligence information may be provided to the United Nations or any organization affiliated with the United Nations, or to any official or employee thereof, unless the President certifies to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives that the Director of Central Intelligence (in this section referred to as the `DCT'), in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, has required, and such organization has established and implemented, procedures for protecting intelligence sources and methods (including protection from release to nations and foreign nationals that are otherwise not eligible to receive such information) no less stringent than procedures maintained by nations with which the United States regularly shares similar types of intelligence information. Such certification shall include a description of the procedures in effect at such organization.
Mr. Chairman, the United Nations has acted like a sieve when it comes to safeguarding intelligence information to the same degree as the United States. Senator
In fact, rather than further safeguarding our intelligence information, CIA Director Deutch has tried to institutionalize the widespread sharing of sensitive U.S. intelligence material by making it easier for foreign consumers to register complaints about the use of security markings, which protect the national security of the United States. Mr. Chairman, if my colleagues have any misgivings about this amendment, I simply want to point out to them that U.N. General Secretary Boutros-Ghali has appointed an Iraqi national, Ismat Kittani, to be the head of the United Nations' Department of Peacekeeping Operations. It is truly disturbing that a national from a country with which the United States has no diplomatic relations, which is on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist states, and with which the United States recently went to war could be appointed to such a sensitive position in the United Nations. This is wrong, and this is indicative of the recklessness with which the United Nations treats sensitive matters and sensitive information.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr.(D-Mich.): I do not think it is asking too much for Congress to tell our citizens and constituents, in general terms, how many resources we are allocating for intelligence purposes.
Representative Combest:Finally, I would just simply say that in the administration's support of this, of declassification of the topline figure, the President has the authority today, if he wished, to call a news conference and disclose the amount, he could do so. He does not need congressional approval. I think he is looking for congressional cover.
Rep. Pete Stark(D-Calif.): Do you think, with a public viewing of their finances, that such an agency would have been allowed to continue stockpiling money? How do I explain to mother that the Federal Government has no money for well baby care but has billions for spies slush funds?
Representative Skaggs:Perhaps most helpful is to realize that an extensive review of this issue of the disclose of the aggregate intelligence expenditures was undertaken by the Aspin-Brown Commission. It has been scrubbed and vetted and examined, and it was the judgment of that distinguished group of American patriots and experts in defense and intelligence and national security matters, that keeping this total budget figure secret any longer just simply does not serve any legitimate national security or national defense purpose. And it certainly fails to serve the legitimate interests of the public in being able to have access to as much information about their Government as possible.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.): That same year former Director of NSA, Bobby Inman, said, ``I am certainly prepared to make unclassified the total amount and defend it to the public, why 10 percent of our total defense efforts spent both for national and tactical intelligence is not a bad goal at all.''
Rep. Patricia Schroeder(D-Colo.): But I think one of the things that the average person wonders is why are we not much more rigorous in our oversight?
So if we go and look at those numbers, let us look at these numbers and look at them seriously, they are saying in the generic press that these surplus unspent funds, they are adding about $1 billion to it every year. That seems to say to me maybe we are putting too much money in it. Are we awake? Are we doing any oversight, or are we just saying that this is so important that we will just give them any amount of money, whether they can spend it or not? I am also sad that we cannot get into more details. I was very troubled by the late article in the Atlantic Monthly about some of the training that had gone on in the Middle East, so that they think we may be responsible for training some of the terrorists, that it was done with good will, but it kind of got out of control. So if we add all of those things together, we scratch our heads and say surely we can at least do what the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Conyers] and the President of the United States have said we could do, which is at least put the overall number out of here. Even though I will not be here next year, then maybe whoever is here next year can have a little bit better debate and put this in a little bit better context because we can talk about what percentages these are. I hope that the Conyers amendment is passed, Mr. Chairman.
Representative Dicks:Yes, the NRO made a mistake. Yes, they were wrong. But I want us to place in perspective that these same people who did a bad job in their accounting also have done some tremendously positive things for the country in terms of the satellites that have been built over the years that helped us avoid a confrontation with the Soviet Union.
Mr. FRANKof Massachusetts: It is a 4.9-percent cut. Because of the vote just taken, I may not say in public what it is 4.9 percent of, because then the Iranians would have valuable information and endanger our security. But I can say that it is a cut of well over a billion dollars. The key question is, will we, as we move to a zero deficit and severely reduce the amount of money available for discretionary programs, not only exempt from any reduction national security but continue to give them rates of increase well above the rate of inflation?
Representative Combest:Example one: Cooperative clandestine activities undertaken by the CIA and other U.S. Government agencies resulted this last year in the detection and foiling of planned attacks on U.S. public and private citizens. Lives were saved. Example two: The CIA worked with cooperative foreign governments to, effectively speaking, shut down a terrorist organization that has had a long history of successful attacks on U.S. citizens. Example three: Young intelligence community scientists constructed state-of-the-art computer hardware and custom software capabilities that are allowing the Intelligence Community to do what outside experts--and our country's enemies--believe to be impossible. I should point out that these same scientists work in this specific intelligence agency at a salary a fourth or fifth of what they have been offered in the private sector--they refuse to leave the work they consider so personally satisfying and important to national security. Example four: Intelligence Community scientists and clandestine operators cooperated to detect, penetrate, and neutralize the activities of a pariah regime to develop weapons of mass destruction. Example five: The Intelligence Community, working closely with law enforcement agencies and foreign governments, provided the essential intelligence that led to the crippling of international narcotics trafficking organizations. Mr. Chairman, I am in strong opposition to this proposed cut. The committee recognizes the fact that each year from year to year that there is a very small amount of the actual intelligence budget in its operations programs that have become familiar to Members of Congress, much less to the American people. We take this responsibility very seriously.

Mr. ROEMER.Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Frank]. Mr. Chairman, in 7\1/2\ hours of going door to door on Saturday in my State of Indiana I heard over and over again from one door to another as I listened to Hoosiers tell me what they want to see done in Washington, DC, people said to me we want to see more openness and honesty out of our elected officials, and we want to see some courage, and we want to see some discipline on their part to cast the tough votes, to cut spending first in Washington, DC, not to raise our taxes, but to cut spending first in Washington, DC.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder(D-Colo.):
Now I want to ask my colleagues, do they really think the world is so much scarier we got to add a whole lot more money for next year? Now we cannot say how much, we cannot say what the overall numbers are because the last amendment failed, and of course we are trying to keep this all secret. I find this very, very frustrating. As all my colleagues know, every day we pick up the paper and Great Britain is dealing with mad cow disease. Here today on this floor we are dealing with sacred cow disease. Spending when we come to the Defense Department or when we come to the intelligence agency, oh my goodness! - this is a total sacred cow, we are going to keep it classified, we cannot say anything, and we are going to keep increasing it; have a nice day!

I think the gentleman from Massachusetts' amendment makes all the sense in the world, and anybody who does not vote for it, I do not know how they can call themselves a deficit hawk, I do not know how we will ever get the budget in order if we allow sacred cows to keep grazing in the budget year after year, hidden behind a screen, not being able to be exposed out in front, and I really think just holding this at last year's level, this freeze level, makes all the sense in the world. Mr. Chairman, I only wish I thought of it. So I hope all of my colleagues vote for the gentleman's amendment.