washingtonpost.com  > Politics > In Congress

Intelligence Bill Clears Congress

Bush Expected to Approve Post-9/11 Reforms Next Week

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A04

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the intelligence restructuring bill yesterday and sent it to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign it into law next week, setting in motion the first major changes in the U.S. intelligence community since the CIA was established in 1947.

"We are rebuilding a structure that was designed for a different enemy at a different time, a structure that was designed for the Cold War and has not proved agile enough to deal with the threats of the 21st century," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee and a prime mover of the measure.


Congratulating each other are Rep. Peter Hoekstra and Sen. Susan Collins, foreground, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and Rep. Jane Harman. (Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)



The legislation establishes a new director of national intelligence (DNI) as the president's chief adviser on intelligence, with budgetary and monitoring authority over foreign and domestic intelligence activities. It also creates a national counterterrorism center, where terrorism information will be channeled and whose director will report to the president on counterterrorism planning and operations.

The measure, approved Tuesday by the House, passed the Senate 89 to 2, with Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) voting against it. Byrd, who has opposed the measure since it was introduced in July because of the haste with which it was handled, said yesterday, "No legislation alone can forestall a terrorist attack on our nation."

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chief House negotiator on the measure, told reporters after the Senate roll call: "The passage of the bill does not make America safe. The successful implementation of the bill will make it safer."

Collins, who celebrated her 52nd birthday on Tuesday while watching the House pass the bill, said Nov. 20 was the "weakest moment" in the "most difficult . . . [road] from conception to birth" of the measure. That was the day Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pulled the bill back from a House floor vote because of opposition from senior House GOP chairmen.

Weeks of further negotiations followed between the staffs of Collins and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who was concerned the bill would interfere with intelligence reaching war fighters. Aided by Vice President Cheney and White House officials, Collins and Hunter agreed on language that set the stage for yesterday's final congressional vote.

Meanwhile, officials in the 15 agencies that make up the intelligence community have begun studying the implication of the language in the 600-page legislation.

While there were weeks of committee hearings from July through September on the intelligence restructuring proposals, most of the bill has to do with immigration and security measures to meet the terrorist threat within the United States. Complicating matters is the fact that many of the bill's proposals were not fully explored in either the House or Senate hearings or during floor debate.

For example, the director of national intelligence is charged with establishing "uniform security standards and procedures" in the intelligence portion of the bill. But in a later section of the bill, it says that 90 days after the act is signed, the president is to select a "a single department, agency or element of the executive branch" to direct oversight of personnel security investigations and adjudication, without reference to the DNI.

In several instances, the bill puts into law new initiatives that have already been begun by agencies, making it difficult to revise them should changes be needed.

The bill establishes a Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center that has already been put together by the secretaries of state and homeland security and the attorney general. It brings together representatives of those agencies that share intelligence on criminals who smuggle people across borders. The bill calls for the center to coordinate its work to support efforts of a new national counterterrorism center.

An FBI Reserve Service is established to provide for temporary employment of former agents during periods of emergency, a program similar to one in effect for the CIA. Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI has brought back retired agents but it was not a formal program established by law. In the bill, the FBI is limited to having 500 retirees in the reserves and none can be reemployed for more than 180 days.

The measure also provides for increasing personnel in agencies fighting the war on terrorism.


CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company