By Jamie Dupree
Quietly added to a sweeping budget deal being voted on this week in Congress, an intelligence policy plan unveiled Tuesday would set up a new coordinating group within the federal government to more actively push back against Russian government covert “active measures,” while also limiting the travel of official Russian diplomats in the United States.
“There is established within the executive branch an interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence,” the bill states, using a term – “active measures” – which been featured in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
This new plan would have top officials like the FBI Director, Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General appoint top officials to a panel, which would then coordinate efforts to check Russian influence around the globe.
“The duties of the committee established,” the bill states, would be to “counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence, including by 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.”
The intelligence bill language included in the Omnibus would also limit the travel of Russian diplomats in the United States, requiring an “advance notification regime” governing travel by all “accredited diplomatic and consular personnel” from Russia who serve in the United States.
The inclusion of major intelligence legislation in the broader Omnibus budget deal was not advertised when the deal was announced on Sunday night, as the extra language was quietly posted Tuesday morning on the internet.
It’s not the first time that major intelligence legislation has been stuffed into a broader catch-all spending measure in the Congress, as the same thing happened in late 2015 as well.
The intelligence legislation was worked out by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as the policy bill authorizes the spending of money for the sixteen different intelligence arms of the U.S. Government.
Also added to the Omnibus measure was an explanatory document on the intelligence policy measure.
The intelligence additions mean the Omnibus spending measure is now over 1,750 pages of legislative bill text, with an additional 1,300 pages of explanatory language.
A vote is anticipated on Wednesday in the House on the Omnibus, officially named the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.