House authorizes intel programs through 2015

The House on Friday passed legislation to authorize intelligence activities through fiscal 2015.

Funding levels in the measure, passed 345-59, are classified. It would authorize spending for the CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency (DNI).

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who is retiring, said that the controversies over NSA spying this past year had mischaracterized American intelligence activities.

"We have somehow decided over the last year that our intelligence services are the problem," Rogers said. "They are part of the solution."

"For the sake of vigorous oversight and accountability over all U.S. intelligence agencies, I urge my colleagues to support this bill," said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

Due to the classified nature of many of its provisions, the intelligence authorization is marked up in committee behind closed doors. But Rogers maintained that members of the committee had engaged in rigorous debate on overseeing the nation's intelligence programs. 

"There is no love fest when those doors close," Rogers said.

Passage of the intelligence authorization comes a week after the House approved a bill to limit the NSA's surveillance activities and effectively end the government's collection of phone records.

The intelligence authorization echoes the efforts to curtail the NSA's surveillance activities. A provision in Title III reads, "The authorization of appropriations by this act shall not be deemed to constitute authority for the conduct of any intelligence activity which is not otherwise authorized by the Constitution or the laws of the United States."

The House gave voice vote approval to a Rogers amendment that would prohibit senior intelligence community civilian employees and legislative staff with access to sensitive information from immediately working for a company controlled by a foreign government that poses a threat to the U.S. 

An amendment offered by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), adopted by voice vote, would require the DNI to submit to Congress a comprehensive strategy to defeat al Qaeda and affiliated groups.

"Al Qaeda has gone on the verge of strategic defeat to a serious and growing threat depending on how you ask in our intelligence services or the administration," Poe said. "The fight against al Qaeda is far form over and it will continue to go."

Poe's amendment encountered no opposition. 

"I think it is a good idea to sit down and take a comprehensive look at the problem and make sure we are approaching it the right way," said Ruppersberger.

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