WASHINGTON, DC—Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee Senator Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman today were joined by Arizona Senator John McCain in a press event on Capitol Hill to discuss the progress made thus far with the intelligence reform legislation, while looking forward to final approval by the Senate later this week. Meanwhile, the “Family Steering Committee,” a group of 9-11 family members today reiterated their support for S 2845, the Collins-Lieberman “National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004,” while expressing opposition to a number of amendments that could significantly weaken the legislation.
During today’s press conference, Senator Collins called this week a “pivotal time” for intelligence reform.
“The Collins-Lieberman legislation represents the most significant reforms in decades. There is no reason not to move forward with this legislation and every reason to do so,” said Senator Collins. She predicted that if legislation is not passed this year, it would be difficult for Congress ever to do so.
“The bill under debate in the Senate gives me great hope that we are on a path to get this right. This bill recognizes the 20 months of dedicated work by the 9-11 Commission, and the thought and research that went into its recommendations – and that we will not discard its work lightly,” Senator Lieberman said. “If we take seriously our responsibility to protect our great land and its great people, I believe we will succeed in passing true reform legislation before Congress adjourns.”
Senator John McCain, who worked with Senator Lieberman on several provisions that were approved as amendments to the Collins-Lieberman legislation, praised Senator Collins and Lieberman for their work on the bill. He said that during the past week, “significant progress has been made.”
In highlighting accomplishments last week the Senators pointed to defeat of amendments that would have gutted the Collins-Lieberman bill.
Specifically, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to reject an amendment by Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, which would have created a de facto Department of Intelligence, something the 9-11 Commission sought to avoid. This proposal would have exacerbated the problem found by the Commission that the Intelligence Director has too many jobs and cannot concentrate on managing the overall intelligence community.
In addition, the Senate voted last week to approve amendments that would strengthen the Collins-Lieberman bill, some of which were adopted from legislation initially introduced by Senators McCain and Lieberman. These provisions would:
· Make our 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 by convincing Muslim youth and others that they can have 21st Century dreams in a world that honors the tenets of Islam.
· Improve communications among federal, state and local law enforcement – the men and women on the front lines of the war against terrorism – so they can be the nation’s eyes and ears – coast to coast.
The Senators expressed opposition to amendments that are expected to be offered this week that would take away some of the authority Collins-Lieberman would provide to the National Intelligence Director over some Department of Defense intelligence programs.
The Family Steering Committee today released an open letter to all Senators saying, “The current version of S 2845 has the support of the White House, the 9-11 Commission and the Family Steering Committee.”
They further wrote, “We are therefore deeply distressed about a number of amendments to this bill being considered today in the Senate.”
Specifically, they expressed opposition to amendments that would “undermine the NID’s ability to oversee and manage the intelligence community as stated in the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations,” and they oppose efforts to deny the NID the authority to allocate military intelligence personnel in response to terrorism priorities. In addition, the Steering Committee opposes proposals that would prevent robust information sharing that would allow the intelligence community to “connect the dots as we face future terrorist threats.”
The Collins-Lieberman intelligence reform legislation is expected to be voted on by the full Senate this week.