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Public Statements

National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 - Continued

Location: Washington DC

Oct. 6, 2004


Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of S.2845, the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004. The bill before us today is the result of tireless work by the Government Affairs Committee and its able chair and ranking member. It also reflects intensive consideration by other committees with jurisdiction over issues addressed in the bill, including the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees of which I am a member. The bill makes some important changes in the way our intelligence community is managed. It is a bipartisan bill which strikes a balance between ensuring that we have a strong national intelligence director, on the one hand, and that we meet the intelligence needs of the agencies which house our intelligence collection systems, on the other.

The 9/11 Commission threw down the gauntlet when it released its final report, calling on Congress and the President to enact meaningful reforms that will help prevent future catastrophic terrorist acts. In painstaking detail, the commission made clear how the attacks of September 11, 2001, took place and how our government struggled to respond. They then made 41 distinct recommendations across a wide range of policy areas creating a framework for our efforts. We have a responsibility to enact as many of these recommendations as feasible. With the threat of terrorism still high, we must have the best intelligence at our fingertips, a robust law enforcement effort, and an effective homeland defense if we are to foil future catastrophic terror attacks.

S. 2845 is an important first step. I believe the reforms in this bill fully implement the commission's recommendations on the need for a more unified intelligence effort. They address the lack of intelligence sharing among the 15 agencies which make up our intelligence community. Recognizing the limitations of the Director of Central Intelligence, who technically has the authority to manage all our intelligence resources, the bill centralizes the management and coordination of intelligence agencies by creating a national intelligence director or NID who has strong budgetary and personnel powers. The NID will also have the authority to create uniform classification standards and to set collection priorities. Yet the bill leaves the intelligence resources of each agency within their existing organizations so those agencies can effectively and efficiently meet their intelligence collection needs, so military operations and readiness are not compromised, and so we can maintain the diversity of views critical to sound intelligence analysis.

Beyond a more unified approach to intelligence collection and analysis, the Commission called for a more integrated response to our enemies. As the Commission noted, our bulky national security institutions are still structured to respond to the Cold War. In retrospect, it is no surprise that they were unable to respond to a non-state terrorist network. By unifying the intelligence resources dispersed across the government, we are striving to create a more nimble intelligence apparatus that can lead our response to these non-traditional threats. To that end, this bill enacts the Commission's recommendation to establish a civilian-led joint command for coun ter ter ror ism-a National coun ter ter ror ism Center-to act on joint intelligence by integrating civilian and military coun ter ter ror ism efforts across the government and to serve as the President's principal advisor on joint operations. The NCTC will help address many of the operational shortcomings identified in the 9/11 Commission report.

Intelligence reform is an important bulwark in the war on terror but it is not our only line of defense. Even if the intelligence reforms in this bill were in place before 9/11, they would not guarantee that the events of that fateful day could have been averted. That is why I supported the McCain transportation security and the Hutchison cargo security amendments. These amendments direct TSA to produce a national transportation strategy, to implement a system for comparing names of air passengers against the consolidated terrorist watch lists, to screen all air passengers and their carry-on bags for explosives, and to set up a system to screen air cargo. And I am pleased that we have accepted amendments that address the role of diplomacy, foreign aid, and the military in the war on terrorism. The 9/11 Commission recommendations in these areas have not received nearly as much attention as the recommendations relating to intelligence reform. I hope that we address these recommendations more fully in the next Congress. We must act broadly and on many fronts to put an end to the threat posed by al-Qaida and those who subscribe to its ideology.

As we work to bolster our national preparedness in areas of border security and emergency preparedness, we must balance the privacy and civil liberties of individuals against our national security requirements. While some have suggested otherwise, these principles are not mutually exclusive, and I strongly believe that we can preserve both. S.2485 recognizes the importance of individual rights by creating a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. By providing the Civil Liberties Board with appropriate authority, the legislation ensures that its members will have access to the information they need to provide informed advice to the Executive Branch, Congress, and the American public as to how we can best protect privacy without compromising security.

As we complete action on this bill, we are reminded of the deep sense of urgency that pervades our work. I appreciate that there are some in this body who wish we had taken a slower approach. Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee held hearings on the 9/11 Commission recommendations with a particular focus on intelligence reform. Witnesses, including Dr. Henry Kissinger, raised concerns, some of which have been addressed in amendments. The general sentiment of those hearings, however, was that we should approach intelligence reform much more gingerly. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time. Many of the reforms we enact today are based on recommendations that were made by previous commissions. These are not new ideas that require more study. The 9/11 Commission did us a tremendous service by creating a framework for action and by galvanizing the political will to enact these needed reforms.

Finally, Mr. President, I want to hail the bipartisan spirit in which this bill was crafted. For too long, Congress has ignored the views of the minority at its peril. We have budget resolutions that represent the priorities of just one party and conference committees that do the same. It is impossible to address the problems of the day unless we put our differences aside to work on real solutions that have broad support. This intelligence reform bill is an important reminder of how much more we could accomplish if we would just work together. I want to urge my colleagues who will serve on the conference committee to maintain the bipartisan spirit in which this bill has been considered in the Senate. When the final version of this bill comes before the Senate, it should not go beyond the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission in its scope, and it should not include partisan provisions that jeopardize passing meaningful reform in this Congress.

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