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.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Or as long as it doesn’t interfere with a Presidential campaign.

  2. carpeicthus says:

    OMFG!!!!! IT MIGHT NOT HAVE PASSED IF THEY DIDN’T SUSPEND THE FINAL DAYS OF A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN TO VOTE ON SOMETHING WITH UNANIMOUS SUPPORT!

    I realize partisanship is going to ratchet through the roof in the next few weeks, but two points penalty, silliness. There is no substance in noting that to win a presidential campaign you actually have to, you know, campaign. They unfortunately can’t pretend they have a major address and then just throw out scraps of red meat on national television.

  3. carpeicthus says:

    I look forward to the dependent argument that Bush had a perfect attendence record as governor in 2000.

  4. carpeicthus says:

    (I only harp on this because I think you are, on balance, a not-silly person. If Charles Johnson harps on something stupid, I just figure it’s a day ending in “y,” but I have a good deal faith in you to be sensible through your partisanship)

  5. James Joyner says:

    carpeicthus,

    I’m not making that big a deal out of it–I mostly posted the news story.

    I do think this is noteworthy, though. Bush is campaigning, too, but he actually shows up for work once in a while. Sure, the vote was a blow-out and it didn’t make much substantive difference that Kerry and Edwards missed it. But after trying to make political hay out of the fact that Bush didn’t ram this through Congress the first week after the 9/11 Report came out–and calling for emergency sessions and whatnot–one would think they could have flown in for the vote. They are, after all, getting paid to be Senators.

    And a vote on a fundamental issue of national security in wartime is hardly the same thing as one’s activity as governor. Although, as I recall, Bush did actually sign/veto legislation, make decisions on death penalty clemency appeals, and the like during his campaign for the presidency in 2000.

  6. KipEsquire says:

    They did the exact same thing with the Federal Marriage Amendment.

  7. yahuti says:

    The SENATE voted on changing the Intelligence Community structure & functions.

    Odd job for the Legislative to dictate to the Executive how to manage his national defense business.

    Also. Is this not how the U.S. Intelligence Community get into such a dark place, in the first place?

    Surely, we haven’t forgotten Frank Church, Teddy Kennedy and other LEGISLATORS who hobbled, blinded, starved then finally viscerated the nation’s intelligence capabilities.

    Do we really want that same lot trying now to re-attach a retina to eyes they blinded years ago?