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THE NATION

Cheney Opposed Intelligence Director in '92

As Defense secretary, he said the post would impair the link between Pentagon, CIA chiefs.

August 06, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — As Defense secretary, Dick Cheney urged a presidential veto of legislation that would have given a national intelligence director budget authority over spy agencies run by the Pentagon.

The letter Cheney wrote in 1992 addresses an issue now being debated: how much authority a national intelligence director should wield over budgets and personnel at 15 spy agencies. About 80% of the country's intelligence budget is controlled by the Defense Department.

The bipartisan Sept. 11 commission says the director should have full budgetary authority. President Bush says the director should be able to "coordinate" the budgets but not necessarily have the final say on how much agencies receive or how the money is spent.

Pentagon officials are to discuss the issue during congressional hearings next week.

In 1992, when the Senate and House were considering bills to create a national intelligence director, Cheney told Congress he would advise President George H.W. Bush to veto them as written.

Setting up a national intelligence director post would "seriously impair" the relationship between the heads of the Pentagon and the CIA, Cheney said in the letter, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists.

It would assign "inappropriate authority to the proposed director of national intelligence who would become the director and manager of internal [Defense Department] activities that, in the interest of efficiency and effectiveness, must remain under the authority, direction and control of the secretary of Defense," Cheney wrote on March 17, 1992, to Les Aspin, then chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Kevin Kellems, spokesman for the vice president, said Cheney does not discuss his conversations with the president.

In another letter written the same day in 1992, Chester Paul Beach Jr., the Pentagon's acting general counsel, further outlined the Pentagon's opposition.

Beach said the Defense Department opposed provisions of both bills that would "dramatically revise current programming and budgeting for [Defense Department] intelligence activities and give the director of intelligence far more extensive authority and responsibility for programs and budget matters than is now exercised" by the CIA director.

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