Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has made our nation's safety a top priority by reviewing the nation's preparedness and response to the attacks, and by implementing measures designed to guard against future attacks.
Congress took the first step last week toward implementing reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission. By approving a new Director of National Intelligence, establishing a strong counter-terrorism network, and easing communications among different agencies of the government, Congress made significant progress in the large, on-going task of protecting the nation.
This legislation also provides important protection to our troops by preserving the existing statutory chain of command on the battlefield, and authorizes the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate the use of resources across the intelligence community, while ensuring the timely flow of intelligence to our troops. This addressed a concern that many of us in the House of Representatives had raised about the Senate version of this legislation.
While the intelligence overhaul bill did contain some provisions that will help the intelligence community, the 9/11 Commission identified many reforms that were not entirely addressed in the legislation - most notably, crucial border security and identification standards. Important provisions that would have required proof of legal residency to obtain driver's licenses and other identification and that would have made it more difficult for terrorists and foreign criminals to delay their removal from the United States were unfortunately not included in the final piece of legislation.
The original legislation, which passed the House by a strong vote of 282 - 134, contained additional provisions to protect our country from another terrorist attack. These included requirements that state-issued drivers licenses comply with standards designed to ensure that those who are illegally present in the U.S. are not issued licenses. Also included were provisions to ensure that alleged terrorists who falsely claim asylum are not released to be free to commit terrorist acts while awaiting a hearing, and actually show up for the hearing and provisions to require the expedited removal of illegal aliens when they attempt to enter our country.
While it is unfortunate that the United States Senate refused to include these provisions in the final bill, many other provisions in the legislation were needed, and thus the nation is better off with its passage. We also obtained commitments from the President and the Speaker of the House to address the issue of illegal entry into the country by terrorists in the new Congress, which begins its work in January.
The work of implementing the Commission's reforms is far from over, and the goal of making America safe will always be our mission.