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Lawmakers Propose Bills to Revamp Intelligence Agencies

Congressional Report, September 8: U.S. intelligence overhaul

08 September 2004

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives have introduced legislation to overhaul the U.S. intelligence community, enhance border security, and expand public diplomacy in the Islamic world.

Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican, essentially have compiled the 9/11 Commission Report's 41 recommendations into a single bill and plan to introduce it this month in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

"The sweep of this bill is broad and historic ... because the threats that confront us are broad and historic," Lieberman said September 7 at a Washington news conference. "If we reorganize and reform the enormous human and technological intelligence assets America has, as the [9/11] Commission has recommended, we will be able to see, hear and stop the terrorist attacks against us before they occur."

The McCain-Lieberman bill, and others like it, form part of a growing movement on Capitol Hill to respond to recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, formally known as the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Congressional committees held more than two dozen hearings during Congress' August recess on the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

The commission's report on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks recommended a major restructuring of the U.S. intelligence community, in order to enhance the gathering and sharing of intelligence. The report also included a critical review of actions by the White House, Congress, and other elements of the U.S. government.

The report specifically called for creation of a national intelligence director to oversee U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as creation of a National Counterterrorism Center. In August, President Bush announced his support for these measures and issued orders to create the counterterrorism center.

He also gave additional authority to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency until Congress acts on the national intelligence director post. Creating that post and overhauling the intelligence community will require amending the 1947 National Security Act, which created the current defense and national security apparatus.

Bush met with selected members of Congress September 8 at the White House to express his desire to advance critical intelligence reform legislation.

"I will be submitting a plan to the Congress that strengthens intelligence reform -- strengthens the intelligence services," Bush said. "We believe that there ought to be a national intelligence director who has full budgetary authority. We'll talk to members of Congress about how to implement that."

The McCain-Lieberman bill would create a national intelligence director with broad powers; set up a national counterterrorism center; call for a broad, centralized information-sharing intelligence network; expand public diplomacy programs throughout the Islamic world; heighten protections of U.S. civil liberties; enhance terrorist threat briefings during presidential transitions; and accelerate plans to expand border security measures.

In the House, Representative Christopher Shays said September 8 that he and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney would introduce a companion bill to the McCain-Lieberman measure.

At the same time, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Jane Harman, who is the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, also introduced legislation aimed at revamping the intelligence apparatus.

In related legislation, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has already introduced comprehensive legislation to reorganize the U.S. intelligence agencies. Roberts said August 24 that his bill would divide the CIA into three separate intelligence agencies, and rearrange agencies and offices currently assigned to the FBI, Defense Department, State Department, and the other members of the intelligence community.