AP: In an unusually public rebuke of a secret government project, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, complained Wednesday that the program was "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security." He called the program "stunningly expensive."Laura Rozen has no idea what the program is. Most of the Drum commenters seem to think it's some sort of space militarization program, which seems likely.
Rockefeller on Thursday backed off his remarks that the program itself was dangerous to national security. "He was referring to the fact that it was a misallocation of funds," his spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said.
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."
Update, 12/09/04, 10:50 PM EST: Doug Jehl of the New York Times has some more speculation, including:
Among the possibilities suggested by private experts, including John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, a research organization in Alexandria, Va., were that the system might be a controversial unproven program to launch a reconnaissance satellite that adversaries could not detect. Former Congressional officials said they would discount speculation that the debate had to do with any antisatellite space warfare capability.Here is John Pike's educated guess. The objections to the program, coming from Senator Wyden, are that "the program does not fulfill a major intelligence gap or shortfall, and the original justification for developing this technology has eroded in importance due to the changed practices and capabilities of our adversaries. There are a number of other programs in existence and in development whose capabilities can match those envisioned for this program at far less cost and technological risk."