The intel community has spent years being bashed by Senate Democrats. Things will be very different if Richard Burr is in charge.
|Senator Richard Burr (R-NC): He supports torture, more surveillance, and secrecy.|
Republicans stand to gain as many as eight seats in the Senate this election. But America's spies stand to gain much, much more.
If the Nov. 4 elections deliver a GOP-controlled Senate, the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to go to a North Carolinian whose unwavering support for the CIA and NSA could radically transform the committee's oversight agenda.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), an outspoken defender of enhanced interrogation techniques and broad government surveillance powers, is next in line for the chairmanship. Unlike the current Democratic head of the committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, Burr has been harshly critical of a yet-to-be-released report on the Bush administration's post-9/11 torture practices -- a view shared by many in the agency.
And although Burr's views about NSA data collection largely mirror Feinstein's, his distaste for publicity and devotion to secrecy could fundamentally alter the way the committee operates on a day-to-day basis. "I personally don't believe that anything that goes on in the intelligence committee should ever be discussed publicly," Burr told reporters in March. "If I had my way, with the exception of nominees, there would never be a public intelligence hearing."
For an intel committee that has feuded publicly with CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper with a ferocity not seen since the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s, the change would be stark.