senator says new classified program "threatens national security"
Lawmaker: Spy Project Threatens Security
By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Congress' new blueprint for U.S.
intelligence spending includes a mysterious and
expensive spy program that drew extraordinary
criticism from leading Democrats, with one saying the
highly classified project is a threat to national
In an unusual rebuke, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West
Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence
Committee, complained Wednesday that the spy project
was "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and
dangerous to the national security." He called the
program "stunningly expensive."
Rockefeller and three other Democratic senators �
Richard Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan and
Ron Wyden of Oregon � refused to sign the
congressional compromise negotiated by others in the
House and Senate that provides for future U.S.
The compromise noted that the four senators believed
the mystery program was unnecessary and its cost
unjustified and that "they believe that the funds for
this item should be expended on other intelligence
programs that will make a surer and greater
contribution to national security."
Each senator � and more than two dozen current and
former U.S. officials contacted by The Associated
Press � declined to further describe or identify the
disputed program, citing its classified nature.
Thirteen other senators on the Intelligence Committee
and all their counterparts in the House approved the
Despite objections from some in the Senate, Congress
has approved the program for the last two years,
The Senate voted Wednesday night to send the
legislation to President Bush (news - web sites). The
bill is separate from the intelligence overhaul
legislation that also won final congressional approval
The rare criticisms of a highly secretive project in
such a public forum intrigued outside intelligence
experts, who said the program was almost certainly a
spy satellite system, perhaps with technology to
destroy potential attackers. They cited tantalizing
hints in Rockefeller's remarks, such as the program's
enormous expense and its alleged danger to national
A U.S. panel in 2001 described American defense and
spy satellites as frighteningly vulnerable, saying
technology to launch attacks in space was widely
available internationally. The study, by a commission
whose members included Donald H. Rumsfeld prior to his
appointment as defense secretary for President Bush,
concluded that the United States was "an attractive
candidate for a Space Pearl Harbor."
Sending even defensive satellite weapons into orbit
could start an arms race in space, warned John Pike, a
defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, who has
studied anti-satellite weapons for more than three
decades. Pike said other countries would inevitably
demand proof that any weapons were only defensive.
"It would present just absolutely insurmountable
verification problems because we are not going to let
anybody look at our spy satellites," Pike said. "It is
just not going to happen."
Rockefeller's description of the spy project as a
"major funding acquisition program" suggests a price
tag in the range of billions of dollars, intelligence
experts said. But even expensive imagery or
eavesdropping satellites � so long as they're unarmed
� are rarely criticized as a danger to U.S. security,
"From the price, it's almost certainly a satellite
program," said James Bamford, author of two books
about the National Security Agency. "In the
intelligence community, it's so hard to get a handle
on what's going on, particularly with the satellite
Another expert agreed. "It's hard to think of most any
satellite program, at least the standard ones, as
dangerous to national security," said Jeffrey T.
Richelson, who wrote a highly regarded book about CIA
(news - web sites) technology in 2001.