Senate Victory For Intelligence Reform

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved the most comprehensive reform of the nation’s intelligence community since the Central Intelligence Agency was created in 1947. By a vote of 96 to 2, the Senate passed the Collins-Lieberman National Intelligence Reform Act. The legislation reorganizes the executive branch to transform the country’s intelligence program into a modern structure designed to counter the homeland security threats of today and the future, including the threat of terrorism.

“This is an historic vote and an historic day. The strong bipartisan backing that this legislation received from our Senate colleagues demonstrates overwhelming support for real and comprehensive reform of our nation’s intelligence community in order to fight terrorism. It underscores the important responsibility we have to act now to make Americans safer and preserve the freedoms and liberties that we cherish,” said Senators Collins and Lieberman in a joint statement. “Our legislation reorganizes an intelligence program designed for the Cold War into one designed for the war against global terrorism and future national security threats. This reform will give our intelligence agencies the strength, agility, and resources necessary not only to respond to the terrorist threat but to stop terrorists before they strike.” “We are hopeful the House will soon follow suit and pass similar legislation, in order for us to work out an intelligence reform bill that we can deliver to the President’s desk before the end of the year,” the Senators added. The Collins-Lieberman legislation that the Senate approved creates a National Intelligence Director (NID) and a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The new NID will serve as the head of the country’s intelligence community and the principal adviser to the President. The NCTC will ensure that the various intelligence agencies currently scattered across the Federal Government, will now work side by side, sharing and analyzing critical information. “We are pleased the Senate preserved our proposal for a NID with strong budget and personnel authority,” said Senators Collins and Lieberman. “Our reform legislation creates a unified command and control structure so that one person is in charge and accountable for the nation’s intelligence operations. The NID will have the budget and personnel authority to truly be in charge of the intelligence agencies and to marshal the people, funding, and other resources needed to counter urgent threats. The NCTC will have both the analytical and operational planning authority for counterterrorism initiatives, giving it the brains and the brawn to get the job done.” The Collins-Lieberman intelligence reform legislation that was approved today by the Senate has been endorsed by the 9/11 Commission, the White House, and many families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. “This would not have been possible without the persistence of the 9/11 families who have worked so hard to make sure their loved ones did not die in vain,” the Senators said. “It’s also important to recognize that our legislation builds upon two years of hard work by the 9/11 Commission and its staff, who provided us with a valuable framework and guidance for reform.” “We commend the outstanding leadership of Senators Collins and Lieberman. The Senate-passed bill is a giant step forward in implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission,” said 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas H. Kean and Vice-Chair Lee H. Hamilton. “We look forward to House passage of a counterpart measure, a quick conference, and a good bill on the desk of the President later this month.” The bill also accomplishes the following: • Allows the NID to create national intelligence centers to integrate capabilities from across the Intelligence Community in order to accomplish intelligence missions. Each center will have primary responsibility for providing all-source analysis of intelligence about specific topics of interest and proposing collection requirements to the NID. • Declassifies the National Intelligence Program’s top-line aggregate appropriation figure in order to promote public accountability. The NID will submit a report to Congress as to whether declassifying the top-line appropriations figures for each agency in the Intelligence Community would harm national security. • Creates a Civil Liberties Board to ensure privacy and civil liberties concerns are being protected as the President and executive agencies propose and implement policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism. The board will also conduct investigations and oversight of the government’s implementation of those policies. • Requires the NID to provide intelligence that is independent of political considerations. To this end, the legislation establishes an Analytic Review Unit within an Ombudsman’s office to provide an independent and objective evaluation of the quality of analysis of national intelligence. • Requires the establishment of an information sharing network to break down the stovepipes that currently impede the flow of information. The network is to consist of policies and information technology designed to facilitate and promote the sharing of terrorism information throughout the federal government, with state and local agencies, and where appropriate, with the private sector. • Also includes provisions to: make the country’s borders, transportation, and critical infrastructure more secure by investing in more modern technologies and requiring better identification procedures; promote aggressive outreach to the Muslim world to dry up terrorists’ supply of new recruits; improve communications among federal, state and local law enforcement coast to coast.