July 27: The House of Representatives passes legislation to implement many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. One provision requires the disclosure of the nation's intelligence budget.
Speaker Pelosi hailed passage of the bill, saying:
We will have done in six months what previous Congresses failed to do in nearly six years.
August 3: The House of Representatives passes legislation that includes a provision to bar the disclosure of the national intelligence budget. Democrats supported the measure by a vote of 208-12:
The law signed Aug. 3 by Bush (PL 110-53) implemented several recommendations of the independent, bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. One of its provisions required a single budget figure encompassing all 15 U.S. intelligence agencies, now classified, to be disclosed. It was the first time Congress had ordered the executive branch to declassify the figure, widely believed to be at least $45 billion.
The White House opposed the disclosure requirement but Bush ultimately decided to sign the Sept. 11 bill into law. It would declassify the intelligence budget total for fiscal 2007 and 2008 but give the administration authority to waive the disclosure requirement starting in fiscal 2009 if it explained to Congress why disclosure would jeopardize national security.
Long before the first disclosure, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, won adoption of an amendment to the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill (HR 3222) effectively blocking it. The amendment to the defense spending bill was adopted by voice vote. It ultimately will be up to House and Senate conferees to decide whether to restore the disclosure requirement or keep the intelligence spending total secret.
Six months to pass the recommendations, seven days to begin to reverse them. It will be interesting to see how this gets handled.
But purely from the point of view of optics, shouldn't a skilled leadership team make sure it's not open to embarrassments like this one?