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Intel Billions Need More Oversight: Senators

It's not often that Senators do anything in the same fashion as their House counterparts. After all, they are senators, men and women who can stop any bill in its tracks and stymie presidents by holding up or rejecting nominations.

But in a fairly rare bipartisan effort by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, there is a serious move to create a Senate intelligence appropriations subcommittee to provide better oversight and management of intelligence programs.

It hit the Senate in a special resolution jointly sponsored by Bond, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the intel committee.

Of course, there was no mention of the House subcommittee that clearly set the precedent for this effort.

"They carefully declined to acknowledge the existence of the House of Representatives or of the parallel action that has already been adopted by the house," noted Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists, who picked up on Bond's speech and brought it my attention.

It was prompted by the continuing roster of major intelligence program disasters such as the unlamented Future Imagery Architecture and a still unidentified program that was mentioned by Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo), vice chairman of the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, during a Thursday floor speech when he unveiled the new effort.

"I am concerned about wasteful spending, not just in the billions of dollars, but in the dozens of billions of dollars, that the public does not know about because it is all classified," Bond said.

One of the things that tipped the scale for the Senate's intel overseers must have been when the Senate Appropriations Committee recently ignored their call for a major intelligence program to be whacked, Aftergood said: "These people feel that they are being excluded from the closing of the deal."

While this push for a new subcommittee is bipartisan it is not necessarily supported by members of either party on the Senate Appropriations Committee, who would lose some of their pretty unbridled power to decide who gets how much. It is not for nothing that the members of this committee are known as the cardinals.

For example, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, opposes creation of the new subcommittee. But the House version of this panel has worked pretty well, according tom the few comments I've heard from intelligence experts who follow its work. Perhaps it is time the cardinals accepted assistance from their authorization colleagues

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