WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Thursday the secretary of a new Department of Homeland Security will need full access to all information the intelligence agencies have relating to terrorism and must also be given the authority to task the agencies to collect specific information.
After two days of hearings on the relationship between the intelligence community and a new department, Lieberman said the secretary of the department will need such authority in order to protect Americans in a meaningful way.
“We have a responsibility – in designing a new Department of Homeland Security – to guarantee, as best we can, that it has the best intelligence on domestic security to help prevent further attacks against our people and homeland,” Lieberman said.
Thursday’s hearing was the third of four hearings before the Governmental Affairs Committee on the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security since President Bush offered his proposal earlier this month. Lieberman and Senator Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced similar legislation last fall, and the Committee approved a bill with significant contributions from Senator Bob Graham, D-Fla., in May.
While the Committee has no intention of reorganizing the American intelligence community or fixing all of its problems, Lieberman said he was increasingly convinced that a new intelligence structure is needed for the new department.
“That department,” Lieberman continued, “must have the authority not only to receive all terrorism-related information and data, including, on request, unfettered access to raw intelligence data. The department Secretary also must have the power to task the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to collect information that the new Department believes is critical to its work.”
President Bush’s proposal envisions a more passive intelligence role for the Homeland Secretary through a new information analysis division, focusing predominantly on critical infrastructure protection. Also, under the President’s plan, the Secretary would need the President’s approval before the Department of Homeland Security could obtain raw data from the intelligence community.
The President’s proposal leaves the FBI, the CIA, and a handful of other intelligence agencies primarily responsible for uncovering and preventing terrorist threats on American soil.
“But it does not give the Secretary the authority necessary to carry out the full range of his or her duties,” Lieberman said. “I am confident we can find common legislative ground. In fact, we must – to fulfill our Constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense, as it has been redefined by the events of September 11.”