Panel OKs Time Limit on Notice of Covert Action

Associated Press

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday voted 13 to 2 for legislation requiring the White House to tell Congress about any covert action not more than 48 hours after the action starts.

The idea behind the measure arose from the Iran-Contra affair, in which U.S. weapons were secretly sold to Iran and some of the profits were funneled to the American-backed rebels in Nicaragua.

Notification of the arms sales was withheld from Capitol Hill for more than 10 months.

"These changes in the law are needed to ensure that the checks-and-balances system is allowed to work properly," said Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.). "Avoiding it increases the risk of misjudgment and embarrassment, as the Iran-Contra affair so vividly illustrated," he said.

The Reagan Administration has opposed the 48-hour time limit on notification.

The bill says that under normal circumstances, the House and Senate intelligence committees would have to be notified about covert actions. Under exceptional circumstances, only the top congressional leaders would have to be told.

The committee's approval forwarded the bill for a vote of the full Senate. No similar legislation has passed the House.

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