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Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 - Conference Report

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Location: Washington, DC


INTELLIGENCE REFORM AND TERRORISM PREVENTION ACT OF 2004--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - December 08, 2004)

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the Senate will proceed to consideration of the conference report to accompany S. 2845 which the clerk will report.

The legislative clerk read as follows:

The committee of conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the amendment of the House to the bill (S. 2845) to reform the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, and for other purposes, having met, have agreed that the Senate recede from its disagreement to the amendment of the House and agree to the same with an amendment, and the House agree to the same, signed by a majority of the conferees on the part of both Houses.

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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. president, I wish to speak briefly about section 7109 of the bill, which relates to public diplomacy responsibilities of the Department of State. I commend the conferees for setting forth the important statement that public diplomacy must be integral to American foreign policy. I don't have any doubt that Secretary Powell understands that fact, but it is worth codifying this statement in law.

Section 7109 adds a new section 60 to the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956, which, as the name implies, is the main operating statute for State Department activities. Subsection (b) of section 60 instructs the Secretary of State to make every effort to coordinate the public diplomacy activities of the Federal Government, and to coordinate with the Broadcasting Board of Governors to develop a strategy "for the use of public diplomacy resources."

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, BBG, is an agency that is separate and distinct from the Department of State. It was
established as a separate agency in 1998 for an important reason: to place a "firewall" between the foreign policy makers and the journalists who operate our international broadcast services as a means of protecting journalistic integrity. The Board consists of nine members, one of whom is the Secretary of State. Of course, the two agencies do cooperate, as current law already instructs. The State Department has a voice in the Board's activities through the Secretary's seat on the Board, and the Department has a statutory mandate under the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994 to provide "information and guidance on foreign policy issues to the Board." And, by law, the Secretary must be consulted whenever decisions are made about adding or deleting language services.

The requirement for a strategy under section 60 must be read in light of this existing law. It does not breach the firewall. Rather, it recognizes the reality that creating a public diplomacy strategy for the Government will involve collaboration between the State Department and the BBG. The provision in this legislation does not give the Secretary any more authority with regard to the international broadcasting activities of the BBG than he has under current law, nor does it give the BBG any authority over other public diplomacy activities outside of international broadcasting.

Subsection (b) of section 7109 amends current law to further delineate the responsibilities of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Among other things, this subsection tells the Under Secretary to assist the Broadcasting Board of Governors to "present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively," and to "submit statements of United States policy and editorial material to the [BBG] for broadcast consideration." These provisions are consistent with the current practice under which editorial statements of U.S. policy are reviewed by the Department of State. The language in the bill that material is to be submitted for "broadcast consideration" makes clear that final authority about what is to be broadcast rests with the BBG.
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the conference report of the national intelligence reform bill, which is currently pending before this body. I would like first to commend Senators COLLINS and LIEBERMAN, as well as Representatives Hoekstra and Harman, for their efforts in crafting this legislation.

Let me be clear from the outset. I support the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, as I think do most of us here in the Senate. The Commission was a bipartisan group whose members dutifully dedicated well over a year of their lives to the protection of our Nation. We owe them a great debt of gratitude-not only for the hard work that went into preparing their report, but for their concerted effort since then to keep the issue of intelligence reform at the front of the national agenda.
But as we all know, many months have passed since the 9/11 Commission issued its report. And our Nation's intelligence system remains broken. That is not because the Senate failed to act. I was pleased in October when the Senate came together in a bipartisan fashion to pass the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, which closely followed the important recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. I strongly supported that bill.

Had the House's version of that bill followed the 9/11 Commission's recommendations as closely as the Senate's version, we would not have been here today talking about the lingering need to pass intelligence reform. Unfortunately, House Republicans included several provisions in their bill-and insisted on them during conference-that nearly derailed the entire effort.

The 9/11 Commission urged them to drop these provisions. But their pleas fell on deaf ears.

President Bush was also slow to react. Although he has professed his support for intelligence reform, during most of this time,
the President sat on the sidelines as members of his own party nearly prevented its implementation.

Having said that, I am pleased that House-Senate conferees worked out their differences over this measure. I voted in support of this conference agreement a short while ago because reform of our intelligence systems is long overdue. It can not be put off any longer.

In part, this bill achieves some important objectives set out by the 9/11 Commission. It establishes the position of Director of National Intelligence, DNI, the person who, hopefully, will help coordinate the flow of intelligence to the President, as well as set budgetary priorities for a fair amount of our Nation's intelligence activities. Among other things, this bill will also establish a national counterterrorism center, and direct the Transportation Security Administration to take steps to strengthen our transportation security efforts.

But I also have strong reservations about certain aspects of this conference report.

First, the new Director of National Intelligence, DNI, would not be directly in charge of day-to-day intelligence-gathering operations. Indeed, this bill-whose language, in some crucial places, is disturbingly vague-provides that the DNI will not in practice head up the intelligence pyramid providing recommendations to the President.

Instead, the DNI will now have competition from the CIA Director, as well as the Director of the newly created National
counterterrorism Center-both of whom will be presidential appointees requiring confirmation by the Senate. Rather than simplification and consolidation, it is possible that this could have the effect of creating new bureaucracies and increasing confusion.

We should remember that among the purposes of creating a DNI was to consolidate intelligence coordination efforts in one person who could craft a suitable budget, ensure sharing of information among agencies, and consolidate information for presentation to the President. It is by no means certain that this purpose will be achieved by this legislation.

Second, although the DNI would have control over much of America's total intelligence budget-roughly $40 billion-he or she would not have control over approximately 30 percent of this total, including certain tactical military intelligence operations. The Department of Defense, DOD, would retain control over those operations and funds.

Why is this a problem? Because these DOD intelligence collection agencies provide three-quarters of our Nation's military and international intelligence. Leaving aside operational control, if the DNI doesn't have budgetary authority over three-quarters of some of our most important intelligence activities, how will that person be able to effectively carry out their job of protecting the American people?

Also of concern are provisions which could affect Americans' civil liberties. For example, this bill will create an FBI intelligence directorate, and it will require the FBI to specifically train and dedicate a group of its agents to gather domestic intelligence against suspected terrorists. Obviously, we need to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores and root them out if and when they are here. But we will have to keep close watch to ensure that Americans' civil liberties are not violated as part of these efforts.

That is why I am so concerned that although this legislation creates a panel to protect civil liberties and to prevent privacy
abuses, this panel will not have subpoena power, and its members will serve at the pleasure of the President. This situation calls into question whether, in practice, the panel will be able to fulfill its role of protecting Americans from the excesses of power exercised by their Government.

Despite these reservations, I voted in support of this conference report. We have already waited too long--3 years and 3 months-and the process of intelligence reform must begin. This legislation is a beginning.

The tragedy of 9/11 continues to echo today with each family that lost a loved one that horrible day. No legislative reforms can alleviate that loss or wash away the heart-wrenching pain felt by these families. But if done right, reforms might help prevent another such tragedy from happening again.

That is why I would also offer a word of advice to the administration, to the officials who are eventually confirmed for these posts, and to those whose jobs will be to root out terrorists within our borders. The American people will be watching you, as will Congress. And together, we will make every effort to ensure that the process of reform continues and that Americans' constitutionally guaranteed rights are protected.

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