Pelosi faces pressure to end standoff over intelligence bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is under increasing pressure to end her standoff with the White House on Congressional oversight of the intelligence community.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday formally filed a revised intelligence authorization bill after approving it last week in an impromptu meeting held off the Senate floor.

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That move demonstrates Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) resolve to deliver an intelligence authorization bill to the president’s desk for the first time in five years.

Pelosi has been in talks with the Obama administration to allow Congress to have stronger oversight of the intelligence community, but has refused to name a conference committee for the authorization bill, a move that needs to take place so the measure can move to the House and Senate floors for final passage.

Feinstein had stood firm with Pelosi for weeks and was refusing to schedule a nomination hearing for James Clapper, Obama’s nominee for national intelligence director. Last week, however, Feinstein shifted her stance and set a hearing on Tuesday for

Clapper after deciding she could not risk delaying Clapper’s nomination any longer because the acting national intelligence director, David Gompert, will be leaving after August regardless of whether the Senate approves a new director by then.

The additional move to pass the revised version of the bill is a sign that Feinstein wants to end the stalemate between Congress and the White House and move the authorization bill as soon as possible.

“We hope that the unanimous vote to report this important legislation will lead to its swift passage through both the Senate and the House, and that President Obama will sign into law an intelligence authorization for the first time in five years. The bill both helps the Intelligence Community perform its national security mission and the Congress perform its vital oversight role,” Feinstein and Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, said in a statement.

The new pressure comes in the wake of a wide-ranging Washington Post investigation of intelligence agencies and their contractors.

Bond on Monday said he hoped the Washington Post’s investigation would convince Pelosi that passage of an authorization bill is desperately needed in order to provide oversight needed to improve intelligence operations.

“We can do more to keep our nation safe, and improving Congressional oversight and ensuring the top spy chief has the authority needed to streamline our intelligence community are the first steps,” he said.

Because the bill was just filed Monday afternoon, Pelosi’s office was still looking over the details to see if she was satisfied with the new Congressional oversight protections. He office was continuing to consult with the administration

In response to the Washington Post investigation, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said: “The Speaker is working with the White House and her Congressional colleagues to ensure that Congress has strong, effective oversight of the intelligence community.”

In their release, Feinstein and Bond said the bill would amend the National Security Act to require notifications to Congress in writing – ensuring that the Intelligence community would explain the legal basis for the actions it is taking or intends to take and providing more clarity on when the intelligence community must provide additional information about “significant undertakings” under existing covert action programs.

It would also require “proper” record keeping in cases of briefings provided only to House and Senate leadership and their respective intelligence committees; require each intelligence agency head to provide certification that the agency has fully complied with its obligations to keep Congress informed; and requires the DNI to report how the intelligence community complies with laws, international obligations and executive orders on the detention and interrogation activities of the intelligence community.

In addition it would strengthen and expand the responsibilities for the inspector generals in the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the CIA and adds inspector generals at the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Security Agency.