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senator says new classified program "threatens national security"

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=ap/spy_budget_mystery Lawmaker: Spy Project Threatens Security By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2004
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      http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=ap/spy_budget_mystery
      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
      security.

      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.
      intelligence activities.

      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
      compromise.

      Despite objections from some in the Senate, Congress
      has approved the program for the last two years,
      Rockefeller said.

      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
      Wednesday.

      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
      security.

      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,
      they noted.

      "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
      programs."

      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.
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