Robert Novak

 While the Kerry campaign suggests the senator somehow foretold the 1995 "slush fund" scandal over the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) hoarding $1 billion in unspent funds, he never mentioned the NRO in 1994. His amendment, offered without co-sponsors, would have cut intelligence across the board.

 In the floor debate, DeConcini said his committee had pruned the intelligence budget by $1.2 billion for that fiscal year, and that is "as deep as the intelligence community can withstand." He added "it makes no sense for us to close our eyes to developments around the world." Noting imminent bombing in the Balkans, Inouye warned "we are putting blindfolds over our pilots' eyes."

 In the debate, Kerry did not respond to criticism from DeConcini and Inouye. He did not address intelligence specifically, much less single out pork barrel projects in the intelligence budget that his campaign now says he was targeting. However, 10 days earlier on the Senate floor, Kerry declared: "The madness must end."

 Kerry's amendment failed 75 to 20 -- opposed by his Massachusetts colleague, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; a future Intelligence Committee chairman, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida; and the Appropriations Committee chairman, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

 The senator is described by campaign aides as attempting to restore human intelligence to learn about terrorism, drug trafficking and international crime. But at an Intelligence Committee meeting in 1995, Kerry asked "whether we should use paid clandestine human assets in situations where the ramifications of discovery are so great and the risk of U.S. security is so minimal."

 Such suspicion of human intelligence had been the liberal line since the early 1970s, grinding down CIA assets. Indeed, Kerry's assault on intelligence spending had been urged by liberals for the past quarter of a century. The presidential candidate now attempts to rationalize his past conduct rather than repudiate it.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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