The bipartisan federal commission that probed the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks is urging Congress to conclude its work
on intelligence reform -- warning that the movement for reform
could die if not acted upon this year.
The commission proposed a series of measures to reform the intelligence
community with the aim of preventing another terrorist attack.
The proposals included the establishment of a national intelligence
director and the creation of a counterterrorism center to coordinate
the gathering and sharing of intelligence.
The House and Senate adopted most of the commission's proposals
in separate versions of reform legislation.
But negotiators for the two chambers have found it difficult to
resolve differences between their respective bills.
Families of the victims of the September 11th attacks have called
on President Bush to press lawmakers to reach agreement before
Election Day, November 2nd.
Members of the September
11th Commission called a news conference on Capitol Hill Monday
to urge Congress to redouble efforts to
complete work on the legislation soon, if not this week, then in
a so-called "lame duck" session after the elections.
Lee Hamilton, vice chairman
of the Commission, said political momentum for intelligence reform
will vanish once a new Congress
is seated in January. "This is a real test of leadership. All of
the work of the commission, and the very hard work of both houses
of the Congress will die with the end of the (current session of)
Congress, unless we act now," he said.
A key dispute between the House and Senate, both led by the Republican
Party, involves how much power a new intelligence director would
have over budget matters.
The Senate bill would give the director sweeping authority over
budgets of the major Pentagon-based intelligence collection agencies.
But the House bill would continue to allow the Defense Department
to control that power. House Republican leaders argue that shifting
that authority to a national intelligence director could endanger
the lives of soldiers in battle.
Senate negotiators argue otherwise, saying their proposal does
not change the Defense Department's control over tactical intelligence
House and Senate negotiators also are having difficulty resolving
differences over House provisions concerning immigration and law-enforcement
A White House spokesman says the president had asked Republican
leaders in the House and Senate to work out differences and produce