|3:31 PM EDT||
Silvestre Reyes, D-TX 16th
Mr. REYES. Mr. Speaker, for purposes of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Hoekstra). Pending that, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of overriding the President's veto. This year, for the first time in 3 years, the Congress passed an intelligence authorization act and presented it to the President. This was something that had proved impossible for a Republican-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate. In recent years, while the bill passed the House, it never even got to conference. When I took over as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I made passing an authorization all the
way through conference a high priority. It wasn't easy, but I thought it was crucial that we revitalize the oversight process, and I committed to getting an authorization bill not only passed through the House but sent to the President.
The intelligence community, by its very nature, presents a very difficult oversight challenge for Congress. This is why the intelligence authorization bill is so critical. It is the culmination of the committee's oversight activities conducted over the previous year. Intelligence funding is one of the few areas where the law requires funds to be both appropriated and authorized. Our constituents, of course, are demanding that we weigh in on all the important intelligence-related challenges that
our Nation is facing.
This legislation goes a long way towards strengthening oversight of the intelligence community, which the President seems to consistently want to fight. That's why the President vetoed it. He wants the authority to do whatever he wants, in secret, with no oversight or authorization or without any checks and balances.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't agree. The Constitution gives us a role in this process. We do have a say, in the name of the United States of America, in what the intelligence community does. That's why we need to override this veto.
This legislation enhances oversight in several ways. It requires quarterly reports to Congress on the nuclear weapons programs of Iran and North Korea. We learned a lesson from the experience in Iraq. Congress must be careful and must be part of the process and a consumer of intelligence to avoid being sold a bill of goods.
The act requires the CIA inspector general to audit covert activities at least once every 3 years. Covert activities are historically where our intelligence community runs into legal and policy trouble. An independent CIA audit is one way to prevent problems that have embarrassed our Nation and have eroded our moral authority.
The authorization act also requires detailed accounting to Congress on the use of intelligence contractors. The use of contractors has grown exponentially, and no one is asking critical management questions about whether this is a good use of taxpayer money.
An important substantive provision of the legislation also requires the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community to abide by the same regulations that DOD follows in the context of interrogations. If it's not permissible for soldiers in Iraq, where they face a life-or-death threat daily, it shouldn't be permissible for a CIA officer or contractor.
Mr. Speaker, if this veto stands, all of these important oversight provisions will disappear. If we believe in strong oversight, we need to override this veto.
In addition to addressing long ignored oversight issues, the legislation is fundamentally the mechanism for authorizing funds for the intelligence community. This legislation authorizes funds for the full range of critical intelligence activities. It authorizes funds to support counterterrorism operations to keep Americans safe today, and it authorizes funds for the strategic intelligence investments to keep Americans safe in the future.
Mr. Speaker, if we fail to override this veto, the Intelligence Committee will be silent on these important authorization issues. Once more, we'll have no authorization bill.
The bill also addresses some persistent management problems in the intelligence community. It requires steps towards a multi-level security clearance system to recruit more native speakers of critical languages into our intelligence community. It takes important steps towards creating a more diverse workforce to strengthen our ability to collect intelligence all over the world.
Mr. Speaker, if we fail to override this veto, it's business as usual. No new solutions, just the same old intelligence problems.
I have visited the patriotic men and women of the intelligence community in the far corners and in the far reaches all over the globe. They deserve our support. They are brave, they are competent, and, in most cases, they are humbled to be doing the job to keep us safe. Many serve our Nation behind the scenes and at great risk, without any expectation of recognition or congratulations. For them, and for all Americans, this is important legislation.
The intelligence community came to us for money, they came to us for tools, and they came to us for new authorities. We gave them what they asked for. The President, with his veto, is denying them those very things simply because he wants no limits on his Presidential power.
So today, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote to override the President's veto.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.