WASHINGTON – The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the 9-11 Commission told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday that strong support from the President is needed to ensure that the Director of National Intelligence can force the integration of the intelligence community as intended by 2004 legislation authored by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me.
At the second in a series of Committee hearings to examine implementation of the 9-11 Commission recommendations five years after they were enacted into law, Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton said the failure of the U.S. government to detect and thwart terrorist attacks at Fort Hood and on December 25 underscore continued tensions among components of the intelligence community.
“One of the challenges revealed in our hearing last week was the overwhelming amount of information that is collected for analysis,” said Lieberman. “We must better organize our intelligence gathering and analysis efforts so crucial information can be mined more quickly from this vast mountain of data we build. The President also needs to clarify the primacy of the Director of National Intelligence, who has an immensely difficult job integrating 16 intelligence agencies, spread throughout the federal government, and include him in all major decisions regarding terrorism directed at the United States and its citizens.”
Collins, R-Me., said: “To fight the war on terrorism, the President, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of State, and other leaders must use the laws passed by Congress to their fullest extent. Unfortunately, the terrorist attack at Fort Hood and the failed Christmas Day plot are stark reminders of what can happen when those authorities are not used effectively. The President must empower his senior officials to use every authority available to them to defeat the terrorist threat. These reforms do not require action by the Congress. They do not require a 60-day review to consider. They should be implemented now by the President. Nothing less than our security hangs in the balance.”
Kean and Hamilton – whose 2004 recommendations paved the way for the federal government to adjust its intelligence operations to meet the evolving threat of 21st Century terrorism – also emphasized the importance of supporting strong civil liberties protections in an age when the government must intrude on some areas of individual privacy for the sake of security. And they renewed their plea for Congress to consolidate its oversight of the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security, a 9-11 Commission recommendation that met with fierce resistance from the full Senate in 2004.
Last week, the Committee held its first hearing in the series to examine the efficacy of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 with testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and NCTC Director Michael Leiter, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. At that hearing, all three witnesses said they had not been consulted on whether to hold and interrogate December 25 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the civilian or military system – highlighting the Administration’s fragmented decision making regarding the legal status of terrorists. Lieberman and Collins have asked the Administration to treat Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant to be held and tried in a military court.
The next hearing in the Committee’s series will look at passenger pre-screening and watchlisting issues raised by the December 25 terrorist attack.