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tive branches, allowing a secret part of the government to function smoothly in an open

society that inherently distrusts any operation that operates in secret. 465

Before bills can be sent to the president, however, they must be passed by both the

House and Senate in identical form. House and Senate differences are reconciled “in conference.’’

In the usual course of things, conferees include all members from the committees

that sponsored the legislation, but can sometimes include members from committees

with important overlapping jurisdiction. 466

NIMA would normally have been “conferenced’’ by the HPSCI and SSCI — a process

in which HPSCI committee members sit across the table from SSCI committee members

to “iron out’’ any differences. 467 Had that happened, the SSCI would probably have tried

to take advantage of the “divided House,’’ using the isolated position of House Republicans

on the NIMA issue to win its passage. 468 NIMA, however, was not in the SSCI bill

(since the SSCI had, in fact, eliminated NIMA language in its FY 97 Intelligence Authorization

Bill in order to gain Senate passage of the bill) and there was now nothing in the

HPSCI or SSCI bills pertaining to NIMA. NIMA was in the SASC bill, so it was up to the

HNSC to conference directly with the SASC. Thus, with the SASC and HNSC in favor of

NIMA, HPSCI objections stood little chance of carrying the day.

A THREE-RING CIRCUS

Newspaper articles discussing committee differences referred to the dispute as a threering

“turf battle par excellence.’’ Washington Post staff writer and intelligence specialist

Walter Pincus named the ring leaders as DCI John Deutch, DepSecDef John White (representing

SecDef Perry) and Senator Specter. “Waiting just outside the center ring,’’ wrote

Pincus, “is Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Chairman of the Appropriations Defense

Subcommittee and booster of the Pentagon and Senate Armed Services Committee. As

Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee handling civil service matters,

he has gotten sequential referral on Specter’s bill and is holding it hostage.’’ 469

Senator Stevens’ actions came as a great surprise to the SSCI members and staff.

According to Charlie Battaglia, Senator Stevens’ staff never provided him with a reason

for why the committee was taking a sequential referral on the SSCI’s authorization bill in

spite of his several offers to negotiate changes or provide clarification. Mr. Battaglia

judged that Senator Stevens was using the procedure as a tool to show support for Senator

Thurmond and reprimand the SSCI for “overstepping its bounds. 470

465 Davidson and Oleszek, 253.

466 “In conference anything is tradeable. It’s like a ‘congressional swap meet.’” Lowenthal interview.

467 SSCI Professional Staffer interview.

468 HPSCI Intelligence Authorization Bill, HR 3237, contained no reference to NIMA. HNSC Defense

Authorization Bill, HR 3259, amended the HPSCI Bill and added NIMA language comparable to the SASC language

as amended by the SSCI.

469 Walter Pincus, “Intelligence Battleground: Reform Bill,” The Washington Post, 30 May 1996, A 29.

470 Battaglia interview. See S Report 104-337. (The complete report can be found in Appendix D-3.)

239

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