Bush Allies in Congress Block Bill That Would Require Intelligence Disclosures
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's allies in Congress on Monday blocked a bill that would require the White House to disclose the locations of secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency and to reveal the amount spent annually by American intelligence agencies.
The vote on the intelligence bill was a blow to Senate Democrats, newly in control of Congress, who had hoped that they would be able to extract more details from the White House about some of the most widely debated intelligence programs begun after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Opponents of the legislation, led by Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, won enough support on Monday to prevent the bill from going to the Senate floor for a final vote. But Congressional officials said that negotiations over the measure would continue Tuesday, and Democrats said they were still hopeful the bill could eventually pass.
Money for the 2007 intelligence budget was already appropriated last year through the defense spending bill, so defeat of the bill would not hold up money for the 16 agencies that make up the American intelligence network. The White House last week threatened to veto the intelligence bill because it contained several provisions it deemed objectionable, including a requirement that the Bush administration give Congress a detailed report about C.I.A. prison locations and interrogation methods used on high-level terrorism suspects.
Since 2002, the C.I.A. has detained and interrogated several top operatives of Al Qaeda, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, suspected of being the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Last year, President Bush announced that all C.I.A prisoners had been transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and put in military custody, but that the C.I.A. prisons would remain in operation.
The White House has since declined to say whether the C.I.A. currently has any prisoners in custody.
The Senate bill also requires the White House to make public the annual budget of the American intelligence agencies. The intelligence budget, which has long been classified, is widely believed to be approximately $44 billion.
A White House statement issued last week said that publicly disclosing the figures would allow adversaries to track annual changes in the budget, which could compromise intelligence sources and methods.
Another of the bill's provisions would require the White House to hand over any intelligence document to Congress within 30 days of its request, unless the President makes a specific claim of executive privilege.
The White House statement called the provision "highly objectionable," and said it would "foster political gamesmanship and elevate routine disagreements to the level of constitutional crises."
Democrats responded angrily to efforts to block the intelligence bill.
Harry Reid, of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, said that Republicans' "actions don't match their rhetoric" on national security issues, and that passage of the bill was necessary for American intelligence agencies to do their jobs effectively.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company