House passes annual intelligence bill

House passes annual intelligence bill
© Getty Images

The House on Wednesday passed legislation authorizing funding for U.S. intelligence agencies and activities, including key intelligence collection efforts targeting countries like Iran, North Korea, China and Russia.

The bill, which was approved in a bipartisan vote of 397-31 Wednesday evening, authorizes funding for the National Security Agency, CIA, FBI, Office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and other key intelligence community agencies.


The House Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the bill by voice vote in late June.

The Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act, named for two House and Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who passed away last year, authorizes funding for intelligence and intelligence-related activities for fiscal 2020.

The legislation aims to prioritize intelligence activities targeting foreign countries like Iran and North Korea while also enabling intelligence collection to support counterterrorism and counterproliferation.

The bill, which stretches hundreds of pages, contains a handful of notable provisions. For example, it establishes a Climate Security Advisory Council under DNI that would be responsible for incorporating climate matters into intelligence analysis.

The chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee both cheered the bill’s passage in statements Wednesday evening.

Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) said it “will improve the [intelligence community] IC's collection and analysis capabilities against hard targets, will help the IC adapt to operate in an environment of rapidly advancing technologies, and will foster a culture in the IC to ensure that we can recruit and retain a highly qualified and diverse workforce.”

Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (Calif.), the committee’s top Republican, described the measure as a “crucial law to keep the Intelligence Community adequately funded and resourced while ensuring congressional oversight of the nation's most sensitive intelligence programs” and said he looked forward to its “swift enactment into law.”

Republican Reps. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotChabot wins tough race in Ohio  Democrats projected to retain House majority Live updates: Democrats seek to extend House advantage MORE (Ohio) and Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it Biden's Iran policy is deeply flawed MORE (S.C.) offered an amendment to strike the section establishing the climate advisory council; that amendment was voted down Wednesday evening.

The House debated dozens of amendments Tuesday evening, but a final vote on the bill was delayed until Wednesday because of a separate vote on a resolution condemning President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE’s recent comments as “racist.”

The intelligence legislation also requires the executive branch to prepare for Congress a comprehensive report on domestic terrorism annually for five years and to publish annual data on domestic terrorism.

The bill also authorizes funding for programs aimed at understanding foreign influence operations and bolstering U.S. capabilities to counter them. It would mandate a report on foreign cyberattacks against U.S. election infrastructure as well as an assessment of foreign intelligence threats to federal elections.

The bill would establish an intelligence community task force on illicit financing related to espionage efforts and influence operations targeting the Unites States.

The House adopted an amendment Wednesday offered by Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyConor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania Van Drew fends off challenge from Kennedy after party switch Markey wins reelection in Massachusetts MORE III (D-Mass.) that would establish a Foreign Threat Response Center within the intelligence community to prepare comprehensive assessments of efforts by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and other foreign governments to influence U.S. elections.

The bill also includes a provision meant to incentivize research on deepfake technology — the use of artificial intelligence to fabricate video footage — and 5G technology.

The legislation also includes various provisions aimed at Russia and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinScarborough says he'll never return to Republican Party after GOP supported Trump Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? Russian vessel threatens to ram US warship in disputed waters in Sea of Japan MORE, including one requiring the DNI to submit intelligence assessments of the aims of the Kremlin’s political leadership.

The Senate passed its own version of the Intelligence Authorization Act late last month as part of annual defense policy legislation, after it was approved unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Lawmakers from the two chambers will now go to conference to agree upon a compromise bill.  

--Updated at 7:45 p.m.