Republicans and Democrats in the House joined together on Friday in passing a measure to fund the nation’s spies and praised the Bush and Obama administrations for gathering the intelligence to find and kill Osama bin Laden.
Approval for the top-secret funding passed 392 to 15, with only three Republicans voting no: Justin Amash of Michigan, John J. Duncan Jr. of Tennessee and Walter Jones of North Carolina.
“I credit George Bush and his administration for assembling this new intelligence community that really started after 9/11, and President Obama for making the authorization, and the continued policies that allowed us to have that information to go after Osama bin Laden,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.), chairman in the Intelligence Committee.
“Both administrations deserve credit for that, and I would hope that today the people of the House of Representatives would celebrate that victory and all the work of the unsung heroes who work in the shadows by passing this so they can get about the business of protecting the United States,” Rogers said.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D.-Md.), ranking committee member, commended the job done by the military, but said the fight against terrorism is not over.
“We have severely weakened al-Qaeda, but we must remain vigilant as we work to eliminate this threat,” Ruppersberger said. “I believe that it’s our responsibility to give our intelligence professionals the resources they need to do their jobs successfully.”
The actual amount that will fund the Central Intelligence Agency and other operations is top-secret. Last year’s budget is estimated to have been $80 billion.
It funds intelligence-related activities in numerous agencies, including the CIA, Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Energy, Justice and Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Coast Guard, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
In response to WikiLeaks’ venting of hundreds of classified documents, it also establishes an “insider threat detection program” that will automatically monitor unauthorized access to such information.
Although the House now prohibits speeches on commemorative resolutions, members took the opportunity to praise the intelligence community on the successful operation that killed bin Laden.
That measure passed unanimously, though some Democrats were a little miffed that it did not congratulate President Barack Obama by name. “I’m very sorry that my Republican friends never seem to commend the President,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D.-N.Y.). “This was not something that was a slam dunk,” Engel said of the military operation.
“It could have gone very poorly. If the President had done something wrong, Republicans would have been the first to jump on it,” Engel said. “I would like to say to Barack Obama, thank you, Mr. President, for a job well done.”
While the Obama administration has not threatened to veto the bill, it has criticized it for cutting funding for some programs and personnel. A series of amendments, including some by Democrats, was added to the bill, including language requiring an Inspector General report to Congress on the employment of minorities by the intelligence community and barriers to the recruitment and retention of minorities.
The director of national intelligence would also be tasked with creating pilot grants for black colleges to create academic programs for language and study abroad that could aid in recruiting minorities.
Above all, Ruppersberger said, recent events prove that there is more communication and coordination among the vast intelligence communities. “We are now on our game,” Ruppersberger said. “We’re working together. We’re better than we’ve ever been. And we clearly have sent a message to the world: If you’re going to attack Americans, if you’re going to kill Americans, we’re going to find you, and we’re going to bring you to justice.”