CIA Loses Another War

A key Pentagon ally in the U.S. Congress defeated a legislative attempt to guarantee the CIA control of all U.S. secret agents overseas, congressional aides said on Monday.

In the latest turf battle involving post-Sept. 11 reforms, the top Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee agreed to drop language from a proposed bill that would have put CIA Director Porter Goss in charge of human intelligence, aides said.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

The panel’s Republican chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, and ranking Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman of California, agreed to change their 2006 intelligence authorization bill after objections from the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California.

Language in the bill sought to give Goss, the House committee’s former chairman, the authority to direct and coordinate human spying — intelligence gathering which does not involve electronic surveillance — outside the United States, including spies who work for the Pentagon and FBI.

It also ordered the CIA director to develop a process for coordinating human intelligence subject to approval by the newly appointed intelligence czar, John Negroponte.

Hoekstra said as recently as last week that the section was necessary to avoid confusion on international intelligence.

But aides said Hunter, a staunch Pentagon ally, objected that the language unduly expanded the authority of Goss and Negroponte.

The Pentagon seeks to avoid any requirements that could affect the chain of command for tactical military intelligence supporting combat troops in the field, experts say.

Hunter was at the center of an intelligence turf battle earlier this month, when he insisted that the same authorization bill include restrictions on the intelligence czar’s authority to transfer employees between agencies.

The California Republican dropped his demands under pressure from the White House and lawmakers after Negroponte promised personally to consult Hunter before transferring Pentagon agency staff.

The authorization bill, which aims to set priorities for the intelligence community in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, is expected to come up for a full House vote this week.