The House on Wednesday passed a 93-page intelligence policy bill that calls for a high-level panel to counter Russian political interference around the globe. It’s a measure that might run counter to President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to improve US relations with Moscow. The bipartisan bill, which passed by voice vote 390-30, addresses national security threats, activities of the US intelligence community and congressional oversite issues. It has a classified annex.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill call for setting up a new, interagency panel to stifle Russian attempts to “exert covert influence over peoples and governments.”
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The bill says the committee would be charged with “countering active measures by Russia to exert covert influence, including exposing falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism and assassinations carried out by the security services or political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.”
Trump has drawn criticism for repeatedly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership and advocating a closer working relationship with Russia despite its record of human rights abuses and recent military incursions in Ukraine and Syria. In October, the US bluntly accused Russia of hacking American political sites and email accounts in an effort to interfere with the presidential election. Russia called the accusations “nonsense.”
The Senate is expected to vote on the intelligence bill before the end of this year’s session.
The measure funds efforts to foil attacks and deny terrorists safe harbor in Iraq, Syria, North Africa and other places in the world. It bolsters counter-intelligence and addresses threats from adversaries in cyberspace, space and at sea.
The House bill also updates whistleblowing procedures in the intelligence community. And it requires a declassification review of intelligence reports on detainees transferred out of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay by both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Separately, Democratic senators on the Senate intelligence committee have written Obama a letter, seeking the declassification of information about Russian meddling in the recent U.S. election. “We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public,” they wrote.
The letter was signed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; and ex-officio committee member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.