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Stakeout Media Availability With Republican Representatives Following a Briefing By the 9/11 Commission

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service July 22, 2004 Thursday

HEADLINE: STAKEOUT MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVES FOLLOWING A BRIEFING BY THE 9/11 COMMISSION

PARTICIPANTS: REPRESENTATIVE VITO FOSSELLA (NY); REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (NY); REPRESENTATIVE JACK KINGSTON (GA): REPRESENTATIVE MIKE PENCE (IN); REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (CT)

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REP. KING: I'm Congressman Pete King from New York. I'm on the Homeland Security Committee. And I lost well over a hundred constituents on September 11th.

I also want to congratulate the commissioners. I think it's an outstanding report. I also want to commend the administration for cooperating so closely with the commission.

As Congressman Shays says, there's a lot of recommendations here. I think all of them are going in the right direction. There could be a difference here or there. But the fact is, it's really an issue we have to address. We have to make sure the intelligence agencies work better. There has to be much more coordination. We have to put aside the turf battles. That, to me, is the main message from this report. Not to debate it forever, but if we do have some differences, let's get them resolved and go forward as quickly as we can.

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Q Is there anything -- (inaudible) -- that you were disappointed about -- (inaudible)?

REP. KING: Well, now, I'm just going to add that, you know, it took 50 years for this current intelligence system to develop. It's probably going to take another 50 years once we change it now, so I want to make sure we do it right.

So it may take a few extra months. And we have to do it, as Mike Pence said, as quickly as possible. I wouldn't want to do it in a matter of weeks or even a few months, as far as the overall revamping. But certainly we have to get it done as quickly as possible; early next year at the latest.

Q Do you all agree there should be an intelligence czar, Cabinet-level position, or is there disagreement here in this group on that?

REP. KINGSTON: You know, my own impression is right now we need to define this more, because I'm not sure how that affects the director of the FBI, the CIA or Homeland Security, because you have a lot of people right now dealing with this, so I don't see how you merge that into one person and you get necessarily a better product.

One of the criticisms is they said the head of the CIA answers to the president, answers-or is responsible for intelligence and responsible for running the CIA and that's a big job for one person. Yet we want to make a bigger job for another person?

So I think what we would like to see, just more definition as to what does this czar do? And they kept emphasizing that this would not create a new bureaucracy or a new government agency. Well, you know, that was our idea behind Homeland Security, and I think you can certainly say that we have increased the size of the bureaucracy through Homeland Security. So we really need to vet that through the process, and I believe that will take place.

REP. FOSSELLA: And just to add that the American people I think want us to get it right and not just fast. Governor Kean indicated that this war against terror will be going on, as predicted, not just in our generation, but perhaps in our children's. So it's critical that we establish the ground rules now and do it right, as opposed to just expedient.

REP. PENCE: And finally, just briefly, as a conservative member of the House, I came to this proposal for a national intelligence director very skeptical. But the information that I've reviewed so far, the briefing this morning, the idea that we would have one individual that would bring together foreign intelligence, homeland security intelligence and military intelligence and facilitate and encourage the kind of communication that was at the heart of much of the failure that made 9/11 possible, is very appealing to me. And the commissioners' clear statement, as Mr. Kingston said, that this is not about the creation of a new bureaucracy, this is about the facilitation of communication between agencies that know their work in their field of intelligence.

REP. SHAYS: I'd like to just say this is a wonderful illustration of why it may take longer than a few months to resolve.

But this isn't a partisan debate. This is why we were all sent to Congress. We will debate this issue and come to conclusions based on what we're learning.

But from my view, having worked on this since 1998, to run the CIA is a full-time job. And yet we said, "You're also going to be adviser to the president. And by the way, you're going to coordinate 15 activities." And I don't think it's possible really to run the CIA and be the intelligence director.

I know we're using the word "czar," but I call-a czar has a different feel to it. A czar is someone who can bully -- (snapping fingers) -- who can just do whatever they want. What I'm thinking of is, as the word is, a director that coordinates these activities.

And as Mr. Pence said, within this office, they would have deputies, one dealing with military intelligence, one dealing with Homeland Security intelligence and one dealing with foreign intelligence. There's lots of logic to it. But we're going to have this kind of debate and, I think, come to a good conclusion. If we can do the job quickly, we'll do it, and if we can't come to a conclusion, it may flow into next year.

STAFF: Last question.

REP. KING: If I can just add one thing to that, I think we should have a debate, but also I think we should somehow try to fast- track it, put a definite date, so we don't debate this forever and ever and ever. The American people want action. Really, the time has come for that. We have to address this, one way or the other.

Q For a good part of the commission's existence, there was a fair amount of criticism that the commissioners had become political -- (inaudible). With the report today, have they exceeded your expectations?

REP. KING: Yeah, I think this is a-you know, from the extent I've seen it, it's bipartisan, it's nonpartisan. It's certainly risen above politics, and I think the commission has certainly, from what I've seen thus far, has really fulfilled its mandate. I think Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that.

REP. SHAYS: Thank you all very much.

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