Intelligence reform needs reform

Published 9:31 am Monday, December 13, 2004

By By Terry Everett U.S. Representative
Amid much national media fanfare, last week the Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. Time will tell if the newly voted on legislation provides meaningful intelligence reform, but it falls short in terrorism prevention. It is hoped that the intelligence reform bill can be "reformed" when the new Congress returns early in 2005.
As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a member of
the House Intelligence Committee, I have been an active participant in numerous congressional hearings into the intelligence failures of 9/11/01.
In their wake, I supported reforms already in place to streamline intelligence sharing and I believe much progress has been achieved to make
America safer from another terrorist attack. Indeed, over the last three years, we've created the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Agency, provided funding to the airline industry to secure cockpits, and we've waged the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. The fact that there has been no successful terrorist attack on the United States since 9/11 underscores the strength of the measures already undertaken to secure our country.
I have studied the 9/11 Commission's report and questioned the panel's chairman in committee. I agreed that passage of an intelligence reform bill which adds to America's security should be a congressional priority.
However, ramming such a large and far-reaching piece of legislation through Congress at breakneck speed for the sake of having a bill is unwise.
I'm deeply troubled that the Senate refused to accept the House demand that would protect American citizens against terrorists who have gained entry into this country through illegal means. The terrorists responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans, carried 63 valid passports. They exploited weaknesses in current American law to enter this country and to forge their plans of attack against our people.
The compromise bill, which passed Congress last week, dropped important provisions that I support. Among those provisions deleted from the final bill are: Making it harder for refugees to obtain asylum in the U.S.; Expedited deportation of illegal aliens without judicial review (refugees would have to prove that they would be persecuted if they were deported to their home country); States would be prohibited from giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens; and, Prohibition of consular cards for ID purposes.
Hopefully, the new Congress which convenes in January can reform the intelligence reform act.