SPENCER MICHELS: The halls of Congress are quiet today. Most members have gone home, and the intelligence reform bill for now at least, is dead. As for its chances of being resurrected:
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Well, I'd say slim and none, and slim that time. I hope it's not dead.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER: Americans will remember the name Duncan Hunter and Jim Sensenbrenner because they brought the bill down.
SPENCER MICHELS: Senate Democrat Jay Rockefeller had sat across from Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner, two powerful committee members from the House through several sessions on the intelligence reform bill. House and Senate negotiators were in a rush to hammer out details of the bill before the 108th Congress expired. But this weekend, just as it appeared a bill was ready to be sent to the president to sign, it all fell apart. Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, decided to stick to the objections he first made last August during a hearing with the leaders of the 9/11 Commission. Hunter argued that giving the newly created National Intelligence Director authority over Pentagon intelligence as recommended by the Commission could interfere with critical information being sent to commanders in the battlefield. He repeated his concerns during negotiations late last month.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: Your military leadership, if asked how well they are locked in with the national intelligence apparatus, will tell you very well. That means that everybody from a battalion leader, a division leader, a company leader, right down to a special operations team leader, have a direct hook-up with strategic, with national intelligence platforms, not low flying stuff, not low level stuff; but strategy platforms. Now I agree with the creation of the NID, the national intelligence director, the idea that we have to give to him enormous powers. I believe that's absolutely so. But we will be making a mistake if we, in doing so, pull the people who are fighting the war, who are shooting the bullets, whose lives depend on this life-line between the troops and those platforms if we in some way do something that severs that lifeline.
SPENCER MICHELS: Meanwhile, James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, once put back in the bill tough immigration provisions he had argued for, including one that bars states from giving driver licenses to illegal aliens.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER: We don't have the luxury to wait a year or two or twenty-five to address these vital reforms as some have suggested. We need to be comprehensive and we need to be unafraid. Now is the hour of decision. This conference is the time to act. And let us hope and pray that it doesn't take a future act of terror against our nation toe get this done.
SPENCER MICHELS: The objections of the two chairmen carried more weight with House Republicans than did the urging of President Bush.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I was disappointed that the bill didn't pass. I thought it was going to pass up until the last minute.
SPENCER MICHELS: In the turmoil of the weekend, Hastert delayed final adjournment of the 108th Congress in the hope the two chairmen could be convinced to change their minds.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT: We are going to keep working on this bill. We will not adjourn sine die. We will ask the negotiators to keep working. We'll ask the president to get involved personally in this issue.
SPENCER MICHELS: And among the four lead negotiators on the intelligence reform bill, there were varying degrees of optimism.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I'm very disappointed that these objections have been raised in the 11th hour and have temporarily derailed this bill. But that does not, in any way, lessen my commitment to getting this vital legislation, which i believe is so important to the security of our nation, signed into law.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: When you are dealing with national security, you never accept defeat. This is a setback but we are going to keep on fighting until we get it done.
REP. JANE HARMAN: I think the challenge to the majority leadership in the House is to find a way to move this bill to reflect the views of a majority of the members of the House majority leadership, including the chairman of our conference, Pete Hoekstra. I think they have to deliver.
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA: I don't right now see a process whereby we get this done in the next few weeks. That doesn't mean that it's impossible, but nobody has exactly laid out for me what that path will be.
SPENCER MICHELS: As it stands now, Republican leaders in Congress will give Chairmen Hunter and Sensenbrenner this thanksgiving week and next to digest the implications of their hold on the intelligence bill and hope they return on Dec. 6 with more of an appetite to compromise.
MARGARET WARNER: For more on the failed negotiations and the prospects for this bill we are joined by two members of the joint House Senate Conference Committee that wrestled with the legislation: Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, whom we just saw, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is retiring from the Senate after this term.
Welcome to you both.
Congressman Hunter, let me start with you. We just heard you say in our set-up piece, that you believe this bill would interfere with the flow of information from the satellites in the air, that intelligence, to battlefield commander.
What is it in the bill that would do that?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: Well, Margaret, we have had an evolution in the way we fight wars.
And right now we have troops on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan, who are getting information and very quickly, intelligence talking about where the bad guys are, showing us visual and signals about what they're doing, where we should be putting our precision weapons.
And that comes from a tight relationship between those combatants on the ground, our Marines, and Army and Special Forces and those satellites overhead.
And that's because the people that operate those satellites are called combat support agencies, that's the NRO, the NSA, and GS Spatial. The big agencies that do the pictures, do the signals.
If we don't have a chain of command, and that means have a direct responsiveness to the Department of Defense and to those war fighters on the ground, a chain of command between them and the people that run those satellites, we are not going to have the responsiveness that we have right now.
Now in the first Gulf War we didn't have that great responsiveness. We built that in over the last ten to fifteen years, and what we have on the battlefield right now is working.
So what we are doing with this bill, which does a lot of good things, and I think we're going to have a bill at some point, is among other points pulls away the chain of command that we have right now that exists and it is going to move more control --
MARGARET WARNER: By doing what?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: And it's going to move more control of the three combat support agencies to a bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. I think that's a formula for failure on the battlefield.
MARGARET WARNER: And just briefly, you mean of bureaucracy under the national intelligence director.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: Yes.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: We're going to have more power for the national intelligence director and unfortunately pull away the tight working relationship with DOD.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Graham, is he right about that, there's a real risk here?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: No, in fact, I think this is a smokescreen.
The fact is the bill very clearly places all of the tactical military units under the Department of Defense.
There is no disturbance of the tactical intelligence for the Army or the Navy or the Air Force or any of other military agencies.
Second, who is going to appoint the new director of national intelligence? The president of the United States. Who appoints the secretary of defense? The president of the United States. Who's the commander in chief of the United States? The president of the United States.
It is incredible for anyone to say that the president is going to allow there to be any increased vulnerability of U.S. troops on the ground as a result of these important changes to bring greater order to our intelligence community.
I happen to think the real reason behind this is that the Department of Defense controls about 80 percent of the intelligence budget today and just as they have for the last couple of decades, they don't want to give up any of that control.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, that's exactly what a Republican, Sen. Collins, said, that she believes that your claim is without merit and that what this is about is both you and the Pentagon just protecting your turf. Is there something do that?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: No, there is nothing to that. What I'm doing is protecting the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.
And I'm sorry that the senator doesn't realize that our troops in the war fighting theaters aren't just hooked up to what he calls tactical intelligence platforms.
They're also hooked up to satellites. That means they are hooked up to national platforms, Senator. And I'm sorry that a person in your position didn't realize that.
And that's why you can't make a severing or a demarcation of that intelligence lifeline.
You have Special Forces operators with only five people in their group, operating in remote sections of Afghanistan and Iraq who are hooked up to satellites.
So you can't cut this thing off and say this is going to be for the war fighter and we are going to take the rest of this stuff back for the CIA in Washington, D.C..
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you, Congressman, this one point, though. What about the Pentagon's role in this?
I mean, Gen. Myers, the head of the Joint Chiefs, wrote a letter. Do you feel you are promoting the Pentagon view in this?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: I talked to Don Rumsfeld -
MARGARET WARNER: -- the Pentagon's view in this?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: I talked with Don Rumsfeld last month and tried to get him involved in this conference, and he said, Hunter, I can't do it. I'm a team player.
The president has made his decision, is moving out. And I'm not available to enter into this discussion.
Now we have a rule, a law that says that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the nation's top soldier, in this case Gen. Myers, has a statutory obligation to tell the truth and give his position, even when it is politically the wrong thing to do.
In fact, senators like Bob Graham ensure that that happens. They sit in front of him and say now General, you make sure you will tell us the candid unvarnished truth no matter what.
So I called him up and told him under his statutory responsibility, he had a responsibility to tell us whether the Senate bill served or disserved the men and women in combat. And his answer was it disserves them.
And he sent a letter to that effect. But that was a requirement that he has, to tell it like it is. The problem is the Senate doesn't like it when he tells them the wrong thing.
MARGARET WARNER: If the head of the Joint Chiefs, Richard Myers, says, in fact, this disserves men and women in the battlefield, I mean, could he be right?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: I don't think so. Again, I come back to the fact the ultimate responsibility for the command of our troops is the president of the United States.
Both of these offices, secretary of defense, director of national intelligence, will serve at his pleasure.
If he doesn't think they are cooperating in a way that gives maximum support and protection to our war fighters, the president has hour by hour, the capability of making the necessary changes.
The fact is the Department of Defense opposed, in 1947, the creation of a Department of Defense; that is, the military services.
In 1986, what's called Goldwater-Nichols, which was the legislation that brought together these regional commands, such as Central Command that's fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The military opposed those.
And since the fall of the Berlin Wall, when it was clear that our intelligence services were becoming increasingly dysfunctional, they have been the primary adversary.
This just didn't happen at 9/11. We've gone through a series of intelligence failures which to date have cost over 4,000 American lives. I think it's time to take action.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, I'd like to shift this just slightly to the president's role. He called you personally.
What did he say to you? How hard did he press you to accept the compromise?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: Well, if the president wants to get a bill, then I would say you could probably live with the bill that we've got, even probably the last version that we were moving back and forth between the House and Senate, if we could be guaranteed that George Bush would be the president for the next 50 years because he strongly supports the military, strongly supports the chain of command and would probably implement or put regulations and policies in effect to make sure that that law was carried out in the right way.
But this is - as Sen. Graham has said, this is going to be a 40-year bill.
The idea that Sen. Graham has offered up that somehow if you have got a good president, everything is fine, was totally belied by what happened to us at 9/11.
You have bureaucracies which, if they don't have straight, direct concise marching orders, go off in their own direction.
And, you know, the worst thing that you can do is to sow confusion as to who owns those satellites. If you sow confusion, confusion translates into casualties on the field of combat.
That's what I'm worried about.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me just ask to you put a point on this.
Do you feel you're defying the president of your party, the president of the United States as head of your party and are you comfortable doing that?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: No, the president wants to get a bill. I want to get a bill; we all do, and there are lots of good things that are in this base bill, but this one defect, this failure of the Senate to come across the finish line on the chain of command language -- in fact the language was written by Mr. Hadley, who was the president's security adviser so that is not defying the president.
The president may think we can live without that. In my judgment and I was simply asked to give my judgment -- I'm one vote in the House -- my judgment to my colleagues and the members of the leadership was this bill, the Senate version, does not serve the people who wear the uniform of the United States.
And that's paramount.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you this. I know you are not a member of the House, Sen. Graham, but you were one of the conferees.
Was it your understanding - is Sen. Lieberman correct when he said over the weekend, that there actually were the votes to pass it in the House if you combined the House Democrats who were for it and the House Republicans who were for it?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: Absolutely. I would suggest that when this comes to a final vote, and I hope it will during the week of Dec. 6, that there will be over 300 votes for it in the House of House of Representatives and probably over 90 votes for it in the U.S. Senate.
There is broad recognition that the current structure of the intelligence services is disserving the American people, putting us at greater risk.
The American people want change.
MARGARET WARNER: But Speaker Hastert -- Congressman, just one minute, let me just ask the senator one other question.
Speaker Hastert was unwilling. He pulled the bill rather than bring it to the floor because he said or his spokesman said he didn't want to win without a majority of his majority, i.e., without a majority of Republicans.
What makes you -- are you confident that Speaker Hastert is now ready to essentially defy a couple of his chairmen, Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Hunter here, and bring it to the floor?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: With the tremendous recognition of our vulnerability, the fact that we've lost over 4,000 lives unnecessarily because of failures in our intelligence, with the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, the vast majority of both Houses of Congress, and particularly the outcry from the American people for change, I don't see how we can avoid hearing those voices.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, now, Congressman, the president says he's going to come back to Washington and really press for this bill.
Are you open to changing your mind? Could this -- I hate to say you're open to pressure.
But I mean, are you -- do you feel you are going to be coming under pressure for early December to change your mind.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: Here's the pressure I'm under Margaret. I'm under the pressure of the people that are on the battlefield in Fallujah and Mosul and around the world.
And I'd like them to have a vote in this. If they can't have a vote in this, let's do the next best thing we can do that's close to that and that is the Senate should be expanded because they kept all their defense experts out of the conference.
They kept John Warner, my counterpart, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, off this bill so that he couldn't negotiate it even though he has more military expertise than practically anybody else over there.
They kept Sen. Stevens, who is the chairman of Defense Appropriations off this bill.
If you really want military expertise so the senators can say does this serve or disserve our soldiers, let's bring in the military experts on the Senate side and get them into an expanded conference, get their expertise and their wisdom into this conference.
Then I think we will have a good coming together and we'll get this thing across the finish line.
MARGARET WARNER: Very briefly, do you see a chance of changing the conference, or are you going to try to push to get this bill?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: We've got a good bill that's the result of over a month of very rigorous negotiations.
I happen to have a lot of confidence in Speaker Hastert and his patriotism and Majority Leader Bill Frist who appointed the Republicans on this Conference Committee.
I think they share the same goal as the American people, greater security, through better intelligence.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Senator, Congressman, we have to leave it there. Thank you both.