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Public Statements

Intelligence Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Madam Chairman, I appreciate the distinguished ranking member yielding to me.

In many ways, this bill is a tale of two bills. Part of this bill is the classified annex where specific dollar amounts are allocated to various programs. And the classified annex, I'm happy to report, is a bipartisan product. And I appreciate the chairman of this committee, Subcommittee Chairman Ruppersberger, and others working with Republicans compromising from both sides, but having a bipartisan product that has the support, I believe, of the full Intelligence Committee and should have the support of the full House. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the other provisions of this bill, the policy provisions of this bill, which are deeply disturbing.

As the ranking member has indicated, a number of key issues, whether it's Guantanamo, to reading Miranda Rights, have not even been allowed to be debated and voted on on the floor of the House. Those issues have been shoved aside.

Instead, what we have in the underlying bill are 41 new reports, plus an additional 17 more reports that would be required of the intelligence community in the manager's amendment. But deeply buried within the blizzard of all those reporting requirements is something that is deeply disturbing, and that is a new criminal part of the statute that would apply only to the intelligence community when they try to elicit information from a terrorist that can prevent future terrorist attacks.

And I think it would be helpful for all our Members to just remember a bit of the history here. Last year the Obama administration released a number of classified memos detailing interrogation techniques, despite the appeal of five former CIA directors not to do it, because doing so would harm our efforts against a terrorist. They did it anyway.

Then, secondly, last year, the administration decided that they would re-investigate CIA personnel who were involved in interrogations, even though it had been thoroughly investigated and there was no basis found for any sort of prosecution. Instead, the Obama administration decided they wanted to appoint a special prosecutor to go after those people again.

Third, there's an effort to bring lawyers up on ethics charges because some people disagree with the legal opinion that they reached. And, of course, just recently we found that that effort has failed.

Fourth, last year, the Speaker, under pressure from questions about what she knew about these interrogations, alleged that the CIA lies all the time, despite the considerable evidence that she had been fully briefed about the interrogations. And the Speaker's charge was so indefensible that this bill got postponed for 7 months and couldn't even come to the floor, in order to protect her.

So you see that string of going after the intelligence community of making accusations against them. And then what we find in the manager's amendment is this provision that creates new crimes only for the intelligence community when they try to illicit information. It is rather remarkable.

Anywhere in America, if a prison guard tries to wake a prisoner up, it's okay; it's part of the prison routine. Under this provision, if a terrorist does not get a proper amount of sleep, the intelligence community can be prosecuted and sent to jail for 15 years.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Anywhere in America there is a criminal investigation, it might be pointed out to a criminal suspect that it would be better to cooperate or the death penalty could be a potential punishment for his crime. It is against the law under this McDermott provision for an intelligence professional to in any way threaten physical harm or coercion against a terrorist in order to get information. In other words, what goes on every day all across America in the criminal justice system would be prohibited in this provision in the manager's amendment.

It is in many ways unthinkable. In many ways, it's topsy-turvy land where we forget who the good guys are, who the guys trying to keep us safe are, and who the bad guys are. It's all turned upside down.

We all remember the photos of abuses from Abu Ghraib in Iraq. They were deplorable. The people responsible were prosecuted under the criminal law, as they should have been. But to extrapolate from that, the source of restrictions here starting on page 33 of the manager's amendment is, I think, indefensible.

Intelligence is a serious business. The people who are involved in it risk their lives to keep us safe. And to threaten, as this law would, to put them in jail for 15 years if they don't give somebody, whatever the terrorist says is part of their individual religious beliefs, I think, is dangerous, irresponsible. And it tells the intelligence community that we talk so much but we're not going to back up our words; in fact, we're going to prosecute you. That's a mistake.

I am deeply disturbed by some of the trends in this bill, and I hope that the manager's amendment will not be adopted, and if it is, this bill should certainly be rejected.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Madam Chair, our colleague on the Intelligence Committee from New Jersey talked about the importance of interrogations. It is absolutely true that much of the information that the United States has received since 9/11 which has prevented further successful terrorist attacks on our homeland has come from interrogations. That is why it is so important that we maintain that tool done by professionals in the right way, absolutely. But to tie their hands and allow those professionals conducting interrogations of terrorists even less latitude than the county sheriff or the FBI investigating a bank robbery have just seems to me to be madness. And yet the manager's amendment, which has traditionally been used for technical-type corrections, less controversial sorts of issues, the manager's amendment on this bill includes an amazing expansion of criminal liability only for those in the intelligence community.

It seems to me that before we start prosecuting members of the intelligence community for not giving terrorists the amount of sleep they ask for or for doing something that may violate whatever they describe as their religious beliefs, we ought to think twice about it.

It is important to say there is no reasonableness standard to say what is reasonably your intelligence belief or a reasonable amount of sleep; this is all at the discretion of the terrorist. We are jumping to their tune under this language. It is dangerous, and it should be rejected.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Madam Chair, a few moments ago, a Member stated that the McDermott language only restates what's in current law. I would be very interested for any Member who can come to the floor and tell me where in current law it says any officer or employee of the intelligence community who forces an individual to be naked goes to jail for 15 years. Sometimes there's a good reason to ask someone to take their clothes off--to make sure they don't have bombs strapped around their waist. And yet an intelligence officer who does that under the McDermott language is liable for 15 years in jail.

The McDermott language says an officer or employee in the intelligence community who deprives an individual of necessary sleep goes to jail for 15 years.

Now, I cannot believe the many good Members on both sides of the aisle who are concerned about prosecuting terrorists, about keeping the country safe, have thought through the implications of this language. And to have it included in a manager's amendment along with 20 other amendments is just amazing to me.

I strongly encourage every Member of the House to read this language and be careful before you vote on it.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) has been a forceful and eloquent advocate for greater diversity in the intelligence community. And he's exactly right: we will be more effective when we have greater diversity in the intelligence community. We're more effective human collectors when we look like those from whom we are collecting. We will be more effective when we have a greater range of language talents including dialects. All of that is absolutely true.

My point, in addition, however, is that it's not just getting them into the intelligence community. It's how we treat them once they're hired. And some of the recent actions over the last year, whether it's a special prosecutor to go after, again, interrogators after they have already been investigated, or whether it's releasing classified

memos, even though five CIA directors recommend not having it done, that cuts against the ability to keep these qualified people in government service after we have them hired. And I can think of nothing worse than to threaten these people with 15 years of prison if they stray across the line in an interrogation as far as encouraging our intelligence professionals to stay with the government.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Chair, I don't think anyone in this House can deny the importance of cybersecurity. Certainly the Intelligence Committee is devoting a great deal of time and effort to understanding the threat to our potential responses and how we go about it. I am perhaps, however, a lonely voice expressing caution about the number of reports that accumulate on top of one another year after year after year and weigh down our intelligence community.

I mentioned earlier that there are 41 new reports of one kind or another that are in the underlying bill. The manager's amendment, which we've debated, has at least 17 more reports on top of that. And I believe, if you look at all of the 20, 21 provisions of the manager's amendment, there are at least two reports on cybersecurity plus a task force.

Now, the issue is important, but surely the goodness--we have some responsibility in Congress to pay attention to the cost in terms of dollars, the cost in terms of manpower to do all of these reports that get added on top of the intelligence community but often never go away, that just stack on top of each other year after year.

So I appreciate the gentleman's interest in cybersecurity. I share that, by the way. I think the gentleman's right on the importance of it. But I would just encourage him and all Members, before you come demanding another report of one sort or another, maybe it would be good to inquire as to what it would take to actually complete that report, how much money that costs the taxpayers. If we do, I think we are going to be a little more hesitant to stack report upon report upon report.

With that, I would yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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