My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Intel Reform Hyperventilation

Much ado has been made over the last several days over the "Republicans in Congress" failing to pass the intel reform bill pushed by the 9/11 commission. For the moment, the President still seems to be enjoying the afterglow enough that this matters little, in the long run, from a political sense.

But two articles today make the case that from a policy perspective this is a very good thing. The first is from the Investor's Business Daily ; it begins thus:

The failure of the intelligence reform bill in Congress isn't a bad thing. It's the first step on the road to real reform--and that's something that's too important to be done in haste.

The second article is from Brendan Miniter in the Wall Street Journal. His piece begins in almost the exact same way:

The Founders designed the House of Representatives to be the arm of the federal government closest and most responsive to the people. This weekend, the brilliance of this design was clear when the House all but killed plans to revamp the nation's 15 intelligence agencies and create a national intelligence director. By shelving the legislation, the House broke away from the political stampede in Washington and made real reform possible in the future.

Miniter is even stronger in his assessment of the politics of this:

These and other points were deal breakers for Republican House members because what the Senate's bill reflects is not a war fighting mentality. Rather it's a call for managing terrorism with small-scale and perhaps covert operations by taking the Pentagon out of the decision-making process and leaving the task of going after terrorists largely in the hands of the intelligence czar. In other words, treating terrorism more like a law-enforcement matter than a real war in which a large number of soldiers openly do battle with the enemy.

John Kerry just ran a national campaign pushing that very agenda, and he lost. For Congress then to have enshrined that thinking into law with these intelligence reforms would have been to ignore the election's results.

Look, I'm certainly not an intelligence expert, nor have I read the actual bill to see exactly what's in the fine print. But when Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says he's concerned that the real-time satellite imagery which is guiding so many of the actions of our troops on the ground would now be subject to one more layer of bureaucracy, that strikes me as a bad thing. We all know what happened when real-time intel on Osama got turned over to lawyers during the Clinton years; can this be any better?

By the end of it's charter, I had very little faith in the 9/11 Commission. Given that, and given that so many of their recommendations have already been implemented, I see no reason to get worked up about this little bill being scuttled. Go back in January, listen to the people who have objections (including and especially those at the Pentagon) and try to design something that's going to work. Stop playing the political game of "doing something," and try implementing a real-world solution of "doing something that works."

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