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Public Statements

Intelligence Committee Reorganization - Continued

Location: Washington DC

Oct. 7, 2004


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I send an amendment to the desk and ask for its immediate consideration.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the pending amendments are laid aside. The clerk will report the amendment.

The legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Delaware [Mr. BIDEN], for himself and Mr. Lugar, proposes an amendment numbered 4021 to amendment No. 3981.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:

On page 5, after line 3, insert the following:

"© The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations (if not already a member of the select Committee) shall be ex officio members of the select Committee but shall have no vote in the Committee and shall not be counted for purposes of determining a quorum.".

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, this is very straightforward. Right now, the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee are ex officio members of the Intelligence Committee, with no voting rights, no requirement that they be there to make a quorum. Quite frankly, they are there to be able to listen when they seek to do that.

Senator Lugar and I are proposing the same exact status be made available for the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. I know the argument will be, why don't we make everybody, every chairman, every ranking member, ex officio members? But the Foreign Relations Committee does need access to this information.

I know it will come as a shock, but because of the necessary requirement of focusing on certain subject matters, which hopefully we gain some expertise on, the Foreign Relations Committee and its chairman and ranking member, hopefully, have some insights occasionally which other Members may not have because they do not spend the time on that issue. Just as in the Armed Services Committee, the ranking member and the chairman may have access to information that is not intelligence information but is information that would shed light upon judgments being made by the Intelligence Committee as a consequence of information made available by the CIA and other intelligence operations. Because, as we all know, intelligence operations can have major impacts for good or for ill on American foreign policy.

I am necessarily, as we all are, restrained from giving contemporary examples of that, but I have been here a long time and go back to the period of the Cold War. I sat on the Intelligence Committee at the time, but I was not a ranking member. I was on the Intelligence Committee for 10 years, I think as long as anybody who served in this body. There may be somebody who served longer than me on that committee. But one of the things I learned is occasionally the Intelligence Committee would come up with initiatives made available under our special rules, which are necessary, special rules that are applicable only to the Intelligence Committee, and access and brief only the Intelligence Committee, and many members on the committee would not be aware that there were totally different operations going on on a diplomatic front or on an arms control front or on a matter relating to national security that were not explicitly-explicitly-intelligence matters.

Let me give you a few examples without giving, obviously, the details, but generic examples. Intelligence collection and analysis are essential to the verification of compliance with arms control and nonproliferation agreements. A few years ago, we on the Foreign Relations Committee heard that a particular intelligence system that is important to that function-that is, collecting intelligence for compliance on nonproliferation treaties and arms control-we heard that function was in danger of being lost.

We took the initiative. We raised it with the Intelligence Committee because we had heard this. We let them know what we had heard to make sure the executive branch retained this particular system that we believed, in the Foreign Relations Committee, was essential to a matter relating to nonproliferation, something that most of the members on the Intelligence Committee, understandably, serving on many committees other than Foreign Relations or Armed Services, did not see the particular relevance of. So when briefed by the Intelligence Committee, it seemed all right. It didn't seem like this particular system was critical for a foreign policy initiative that was underway and a treaty that existed. And by the way, we only heard about it from someone in the executive branch who had made it known to a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Intelligence is also needed to give warning of new dangers and opportunities around the world. That may require different capabilities from those of us who serve on the Armed Services Committee or who served in the Armed Services. The Armed Services Committee rightly worries about intelligence support for military operations. Why is that unrelated to major diplomatic operations? That can have as much consequence on American security as tactical military operations.

The Foreign Relations Committee has a concern to ensure that there is a balance, that U.S. intelligence resources are not devoted primarily or overwhelmingly to tactical targets. My friend, the chairman of the committee, may disagree with me, but if I translate that, we only have so many assets that can be brought to bear. If I can make an analogy to the FBI, there are only 11,600 FBI agents, I think maybe 11,800. By the way, I might note, before 9/11 there were only 11,300. So we haven't done much there.

But let's assume we say what is going on right now. There is a decision being made that those agents should focus on counterterror. That is a legitimate issue. But what about the Mafia? What about organized crime units that deal in drugs that are not involved in terror? It is a legitimate issue to debate as to where the resources should be placed. Of that 11,800, you have about 4,000 people to be made available. You only have so many satellites. You only have so many agents. You only have so many resources. And, understandably, the Armed Services Committee wants to make sure those resources are focused on those tactical issues that are critically important.

I am not suggesting they should not. But there should be a voice there that is fully informed on the foreign policy side and has access that other members of the Foreign Relations Committee do not have because, as we all know, there are certain things that are made available to the Foreign Relations Committee, under our rules, only to the ranking member and only to the chairman and not the whole membership. And so absent having the fact that we have a member who may be brighter than and more informed than the chairman or the ranking member, they don't have the same access. They don't have the same access to all the diplomatic initiatives that are underway.

So if it makes sense to have Armed Services have tactical input here, it seems to me that this false separation of our foreign policy and our defense policy is one of the reasons we got ourselves in trouble to begin with. What are we doing now? We are agreeing to change the rules. We are about to change the rules, I hope, when we get into reorganizing this body. And we are going to say no longer is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee not able to serve on Armed Services, and no longer is a member of Armed Services not able to serve on the Foreign Relations Committee. Why? We are going around making sure that there are not stovepipes in the Intelligence Committee. We finally figured out there should not be stovepipes in terms of information and access and expertise as it relates to strategic doctrine, foreign policy, and tactical military operations. It is necessary.

I know of one matter on which we were kept in the dark for some months, then briefed earlier this year. And we have gotten no information since. We go back, the chairman and I, and say: We want more information.

They say: We already told the Intelligence Committee.

Then the Intelligence Committee tells us, which is literally true: We can come and read whatever it is that is there.

We all know how this place works. If you are not there in the middle of a hearing, if you are not there in that closed session, if you are not able to probe what is being said and have a perspective that may be different than the members of the committee, you are not likely to get the information.

That is especially true because if we gained information as ex officio members of the Intelligence Committee, we would be bound by the same nondisclosure rules that apply to other members of the Intelligence Committee. I found in my 10 years on the Intelligence Committee-I think that is longer served time than anybody who presently sits on the Intelligence Committee, or as long; I could be wrong about that-I found, as one of my friends said early on when I got put on that committee originally: I don't want to go on because it is like Pac-Man. They will tell you information that you otherwise could learn, but once they have told you, you can't disclose it because if you do, even though it appears in the New York Times, you have violated the law.

One of the things that is useful, I find that people are much more open with me as a junior member of the Intelligence Committee rather than a 31-year member of the Foreign Relations Committee. So we would be bound by the same rules. The Foreign Relations Committee also has a major concern for the safety and security of overseas embassies. We have shared that concern in this regard with the Intelligence Committee, which doesn't want to see intelligence personnel or information put at risk by ineffective security in our embassies. We will be able to pursue that shared interest more effectively if our chairman and ranking member have ready access to the information on this security and security around the world.

And lastly, because I am getting pretty close here, the idea of being able to completely separate the functioning of our State Department and the functioning of the intelligence community in little neat boxes does not comport with reality. That is not how it works.

Other than the present chairman of the committee maybe not wanting the Government expense of adding two more chairs at the table, I quite frankly don't understand what the problem is.

I reserve the remainder of my time and yield the floor.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, you know, one of the problems of being around here a while is that you get in this body and you take things in a personal context. This has nothing to do with overseeing the Intelligence Committee. This is about expanding the capability of the Intelligence Committee.

Let me give my friend an example. I think he totally misses the point. He views this as an assault on the committee, a weakening. We are looking at them. I wonder if the Senator is aware that on the Foreign Relations Committee, there are numerous occasions when the ranking member and chairman are made aware by the Secretary of State and/or the President himself of a diplomatic initiative that they have no idea is about to be undertaken. I wonder if he knows that. It is not about the collection of intelligence, it is about a diplomatic initiative.

Let me make something up. Assume we were having great difficulty with Canada and they are our enemy. The President and Secretary of State call the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee down to get our judgment on whether, if we made the following entree diplomatically to a particular group in Canada-say, Quebec-we might be able to move the ball, and, at the same time, the Intelligence Committee is hearing information that is meat and potatoes, critically important, that there is an initiative underway in the Intelligence Committee to eavesdrop upon the undertakings of the very people who are about to make this initiative. It might be a useful thing, not an assault on the chairman or a diminution of his authority but another access and avenue of, hopefully, an informed person with a different perspective on something that is not banking, or it is not agriculture; it is serious stuff.

We tend, when we think about intelligence, to think only in terms of covert operations and the military. The fact is, that is part of our problem. This false separation of the conduct of American foreign policy and the policy of our strategic doctrine and our tactical doctrine is part of our problem. So this is not about sitting down and babysitting, or whatever the phrase used by my friend was; this is about being collaborative and letting them maybe know a perspective they didn't know.

Lastly, we all have access to all kinds of information. The problem is, unless we are essentially tasked with the responsibility and obligation, there is so much we have to do, we don't get to do it. I know what the chairman is worried about: this guy sitting next to me. I hired him in the Intelligence Committee 20 years ago. He sat there for 10 years. Now he works for me on the Foreign Relations Committee. There is a worry-not about my particular colleague on my left-but we will have staff there that will do what they do in every committee if they attend a hearing: Mr. Chairman, this is about to happen, and it is a small thing and it totally conflicts with what you have been told by the Secretary of State and it may be useful.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's opening time has expired.

Mr. BIDEN. Do I have any time beyond that?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Five minutes to close.

Mr. BIDEN. The bottom line is, I wish we would get together in this place and stop viewing everything as sort of an assault on somebody else's jurisdiction. This is not about that. I got off of the Intelligence Committee. I was on the Intelligence Committee, the Budget Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Judiciary Committee. I concluded that I could not do all four of those, so I got off. I gave up the chairmanship of the Budget Committee because I didn't think I could do that and my job on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee.

The strength of this institution lies in our willingness to recognize the contribution that each of us can make, the perspective we bring to the table, and, occasionally, just maybe a degree of expertise that maybe another colleague doesn't have. I clearly do not have the expertise of my colleague on the Intelligence Committee on intelligence matters now. He is fully, contemporaneously, totally informed. I don't have the competence on matters relating to the Banking Committee and the international banking system as the chairman and ranking member do because that is their obligation. I don't have the competence my friend from Alaska has on the Appropriations Committee and how all these pieces fit together, but I respectfully suggest that I might be able to contribute.

Whoever succeeds me-the Senator from Connecticut, I think, is next in line to be chairman or ranking member of the Foreign Relations-I respectfully suggest he has a perspective that might be useful.

Why do we view this in terms of competition? If you hang around this place long enough, you kind of go through a couple phases, one of which is you end up sometimes not recognizing the potential strength that lies here.

Senator Hagel and Senator Rockefeller are brilliant members of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Rockefeller, because he is the cochairman, has not been able to attend one-fifth of our hearings, and he should not be at our hearings. He should be doing the work of the Intelligence Committee because that is his primary responsibility. Senator Hagel is the same way. They are both incredibly well-informed people. They both serve on the committee, but they do not have the full access Senator Lugar has to every diplomatic initiative that Senator Lugar may be aware of or the particular concerns or the sensitivity of a particular initiative and at a particular time.

I conclude by saying, I go back to my days on the Intelligence Committee. I happened to be aware, only because Senator Pell made me aware, of an initiative that was underway in a particular Eastern European country. At the time, Mr. Casey and Ugell were running operations there. Only because I was made aware by the chairman of the committee of what he had been briefed on and was allowed to communicate was I able to say in a hearing and I think-I don't know this for a fact. I know I asked for two hearings, as a member of the Intelligence Committee of the entire Senate. I demanded there be a secret hearing, that we close the doors, only Senators, no staff. It does not often happen because you only have one of two choices when you are informed about what you think is a dangerous initiative that is underway in the intelligence community. You go forward and you blow it and you suffer the consequences, you have broken the law, or under the laws, you can ask for a secret meeting of the Senate.

There was an operation that was proposed. This is years ago in the early days of the Reagan administration, relating to the very country in which there was a serious diplomatic initiative being made, in a sense covertly, not by the intelligence community, but by the State Department and the White House.

When I made the Congress aware of that, it was concluded that maybe it was not a good operation, and I signed on that piece of paper. You still have to sign off: I oppose this action. Whether it is because I did that or not, I cannot say, but the action was jettisoned. It was ill-conceived and totally at odds with the initiative the Reagan administration had going over in another piece of it. I do not know if that was a positive contribution or not, but I can tell you it was a different perspective.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

Mr. BIDEN. I yield the floor.
Mr. BIDEN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. ROCKEFELLER. I think the committees are accommodating, and I would hope that the Senator would be understanding of that.

Mr. BIDEN. Will the Senator yield for a question? I will be very brief.


Mr. BIDEN. I used to have a friend who used to say: You have to know how to know.

The Senator has been on the Intelligence Committee long enough to know that unless one is there and they know what has been said, reading the report is not particularly relevant half the time. My question is this: What is the problem? The committee does not have enough seats? The committee does not have enough chairs if we walk in? What is the deal? What is the concern? That we would release the information more than anyone else on the committee might?

I mean, I am a little confused. Like from that line in the movie: What is the story, Richie? What is the problem? What is the downside? Do we breathe too much of the oxygen in the room? Are we going to take up more time? I do not quite get it.

I understand what the Senator says about how we are covering it. What I do not understand is, no one has said to me what is the downside of Senator Lugar being able to, when he feels like it, show up, sit there and ask questions just like the Senator asks questions because he has a perspective. I am a little curious about that.

I yield the floor.

Mr. ROCKEFELLER. I would be happy to do my best to respond.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time has expired.

Mr. BIDEN. I ask unanimous consent that the chairman have 2 minutes to respond.

Mr. BIDEN. I do not believe that is accurate.

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