2004 intelligence reform

Bill in Brief

Congress passed a intelligence reform bill in 2004 with the idea of shaking up a system that seemed to be stuck in the past. Below is a bit of a "Joe Archive" on the bill from 2004.

The House and Senate passed two versions of a bill to overhaul the nation's complex and, some say, flawed intelligence system. Although both chambers put the creation of a National Intelligence Director (NID) at the center of their plans, they split on how much budgetary and hiring power to give that NID. The House proposal also tacked on a number of security measures which were designed to beef up anti-terrorist law enforcement, but which have civil libertarians calling the bill a "back door Patriot Act" (the House has since dropped many of those proposals during negotiations). Below is a snapshot of some of the changes the House and the Senate proposed - gleaned from the Washington Post, New York Times, Congress Daily, Congressional Quarterly and the LA Times.

As of the week of December 13, Congress reached a compromise and both chambers successfully passed intelligence reform. The bill now just needs the president's signature, which it is sure to receive. (December 13 , 2004)

2008 follow-up: The president issued new guidelines for the 16 intelligence agencies which also enhanced the leadership role of the Director of National Intelligence. (WP)

The House's proposal

National Intelligence Director

The House would create a national intelligence director (NID) to oversee and coordinate the nation's 15 intelligence agencies.

Budget powers

Right now the director of the CIA is also officially the “Director of Central Intelligence”, but with control of less than 20% of intelligence spending (Defense controls 80%), the DCI only has real authority over the CIA.

The House plan would give the NID more control over intelligence spending, but less than he would have under the Senate plan. According to the Washington Post, the House bill would only allow the NID to "develop and present to the president" a budget plan for the intelligence agencies. (WP)

An earlier NYTimes article explains the budgetary power dynamics a bit more; the House bill would give the NID "full budget authority'' over intelligence gathering and sharing, but at the same time it says the NID would "facilitate the management'' of the intelligence funding and could transfer money between intelligence agencies only with the "approval of the director of the Office of Management and Budget'' in the White House. (NYTimes)

The Washington Post also reports that the Department of Defense's comptroller would still oversee spending. (WP)

Declassifying the budget

Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill does not propose to make the intelligence budget public. (CD)


The Defense Department would continue to nominate agency chiefs (presumably of the agencies it controlled before - the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office), but the NID could veto the choices. (WP)

National Counterterrorism Center

A National Counterterrorism Center would be created, similar to the one in the Senate's plan. (CD)

Where they're housed

The NID and his staff would be an independent agency under the executive branch. (WP)


The House plan would:

  • Up the number of border patrol, immigration and customs agents. (LATimes)
  • Set minimal standards for state drivers' licenses and identity cards. (LATimes)
  • Set up stronger measures to prevent identity theft and money-laundering (MSNBC)
  • Increase inspections of travelers to the U.S. (LATimes)
  • Make it easier to deport aliens who help or join terrorist groups. (LATimes) In negotiations, however, the House looks ready to drop its push for quick deportations. (CQ)
  • Establish a national database for government agencies to share info on citizens. (LATimes)
  • Make it easier to secretly monitor terrorist suspects who don't have an association with a known terrorist group (so called "lone wolf" terrorists). (WP)


The bill adds funding for fire fighters, "first responders" and foreign diplomacy. (CD)

The Senate's proposal

National Intelligence Director

The Senate proposal also places a national intelligence director (NID) at the center of its plan…

Budget powers

…and divvies up budgetary control of the intelligence agencies between the NID and the Defense Department (about 2/3 to the NID and 1/3 to Defense). Under the Senate plan, Defense would still maintain control of intelligence that directly relates to military operations.

The NID would have authority to move personnel and assets across agencies.

The NID would have budget authority over the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, even though those offices would remain part of the Pentagon.

The bill would also create a new comptroller for intelligence spending. (WP)

Declassifying the budget

The Senate's plan would declassify the intelligence program's total budget to promote public accountability. (The Senate has offered to drop the declassification requirement in its negotiations with the House - WP.)


The Secretary of Defense would nominate the directors of several critical intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The NID could object to a nomination but would still need to forward the nomination to the President for approval, with their objection noted (WP). He would also have to okay the FBI director's and the head of Homeland Security's selections for their deputy directors of intelligence. Lastly, the NID would have some say in choosing the director of the CIA.

National Counterterrorism Center

A National Counterterrorism Center would be created, similar to the one in the House's plan. (CD)

Where they're housed

The NID, the National Counterterrorism Center and numerous "national intelligence centers" would be housed in a new National Intelligence Authority headed by the NID, not in the White House.

Super computer

The bill proposes a vastly connected computer system that gives the CIA access to local law enforcement and private commercial data bases. The act would regulate how the computer network could be used; nonetheless, civil libertarians and privacy advocates are worried it could be misused. (WP)

Civil liberties board

The bill also calls for a "civil liberties board," to make sure that anti-terrorism efforts don't collide with constitutional rights.

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

Posted In