Sen. John McCain feels stiffed by the White House, which has refused to respond to a letter he sent earlier this year asking about a top secret intelligence program, according to several sources with knowledge of McCain's complaint.
He has decided to place a hold on Gen. James Clapper's nomination to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI)until the White House answers his questions, one of which involves a decade-old multi-billion dollar spy satellite program. One other question might involve something related to Clapper that happened before President Bush appointed him to become head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
McCain's office wouldn't say what McCain needed to hear before he released the hold and neither his staff nor the DNI would comment on the subject matter because it is classified.
McCain, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, would be privy to limited information about intelligence birds and their capabilities, but he would lack access to specific information about the state of development of any program.
The National Reconnaissance Office, a Pentagon agency that runs the satellites, has been trying to figure out for years how to build and field satellites that are cost-efficient and effective for political and military intelligence needs. Two big efforts -- one called Future Imagery Architecture and another known by the acronym of BASIC -- have fallen prey to congressional skepticism, although their shells exist in some form. Congress has suspected that the Air Force and Navy have colluded with NRO to reprogram money.