Intelligence Bill Passed by Senate
Intelligence Bill Passed by Senate (Charles Babington, WaPo A01)
The Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday to revamp the structure of the nation’s intelligence community by creating a national intelligence director, a counterterrorism center and other agencies in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The bill calls for the most dramatic changes to the intelligence community in half a century, and would give the new director authority to coordinate the activities and spending of the CIA and several other intelligence agencies throughout the government. It would also declassify the amount of money the government spends on intelligence and would create a civil liberties board to safeguard privacy and civil rights as the government steps up anti-terrorism activities.
The legislation, passed by a 96 to 2 vote, contains many of the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. But a confrontation looms with the House, whose leaders have drafted a bill with many provisions not in the Senate measure. The vote underscores the influence of the 10-member commission that studied the government’s response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The panel’s report, released in July, became a bestseller and spurred Congress and the White House to rethink an intelligence structure built mainly to address Cold War threats. “This is an historic vote and an historic day,” the bill’s chief sponsors, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), said in a statement.
The only nay votes were cast by Sens. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-S.C.), who said Congress was moving too rapidly on so complex a matter.
The Senate bill sharply contrasts with the bill working its way through the House, where the issue has been tightly controlled by GOP leaders. Although senators acclaimed their bipartisan accomplishment, their bill must be reconciled with the one in the House. The House bill, scheduled to reach the floor today or Friday, was written entirely by Republicans and differs in many respects from the Senate bill. It largely tracks the Senate bill in creating an intelligence director and counterterrorism center. But the House measure contains other provisions likely to cause strenuous debate. One, which would boost law-enforcement and immigration-control powers, has been criticized by civil liberties groups and is opposed by some leading senators. One of the most controversial provisions would make it easier for the government to deport foreign suspects to nations where they might be tortured.
The Sept. 11 commission’s chairman and vice chairman — former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean (R) and former representative Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) — issued a statement calling the Senate bill “a giant step forward in implementing the recommendations of the 9-11 commission. We look forward to House passage of a counterpart measure, a quick [House-Senate] conference and a good bill on the desk of the president later this month.”
I wonder who the two Senators who didn’t bother to vote on this bill were?
Update (1058): OBE’s Matt confirms my suspicions.
Update (1410): Dodd Harris provides the Kerry-Edwards “explanation.”
Update (1423): Kerry: Intel Reform ‘Long Overdue’ (CBS News – July 22, 2004)
Kerry said if he is elected president and Mr. Bush has not acted on the commission’s findings, he will immediately convene an emergency security summit. Members would include congressional leaders from both parties, leaders of agencies that fight terrorism and the Sept. 11 commissioners.
“There are imperatives that we must move on rapidly,” Kerry said.
As long as it’s convenient, of course.