US house passes spy czar bill
WASHINGTON: The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a sweeping overhaul of US intelligence agencies, ending weeks of wrangling over the Pentagon’s power under the reforms demanded after the September 11 attacks.
On a vote of 336-75, the house sent the measure to Senate for final congressional approval expected on Wednesday. The bill, which creates a new director of national intelligence post, then goes to President George W Bush for his promised signature. The house passed the bill after lawmakers resolved differences over Pentagon authority on intelligence needed to help battlefield commanders, and Republican leaders decided to put off a fight over immigration issues until next year.
Dozens of Republicans broke ranks with Bush and voted against it because the compromise bill omitted immigration provisions they wanted. The bill, sought by some of the families of September 11 victims, would implement key recommendations made by the September 11 commission and create a new director of national intelligence with strong budget powers to oversee 15 US spy agencies. It also creates a new counter-terrorism centre that would plan and help oversee counter-terrorism operations.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush monitored a broadcast of the house debate aboard Air Force One as he flew back to Washington from California. The bill is the biggest revamping of US intelligence in more than 50 years and the second major government overhaul since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Congress earlier created the Homeland Security Department that brought together various federal law enforcement agencies.
The bill stalled last month and appeared dead for the year, but found new life under pressure from families of victims of the September 11 attacks. reuters