- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Congress will “risk lives” if it fails to pass an intelligence-reform measure before it adjourns in December, leaders of the September 11 commission said yesterday.

Opponents of the measure, however, say their provisions, which are holding up the bill, are just as key to preventing further terrorist attacks and remain steadfast against passing a bill this year that does not address chain-of-command rules and immigration reforms.

Thomas H. Kean, commission chairman and a former Republican New Jersey governor, said the safety of the country against future terrorist attacks cannot wait for months while a new Congress convenes and begins the process anew.

“So it’s six months when none of these things will happen: not better security at the borders, not more help for local people, nothing, nothing. And I don’t think we can wait that long. And I think it does, in essence, risk lives,” Mr. Kean told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We know there’s another attack coming. You and I can’t say if it’s next week or six months from now, but it’s coming,” Mr. Kean said.

The chairman said he is optimistic that the legislation will be approved, but “the question is whether it will pass now or after a second attack,” Mr. Kean said.

If Congress fails to act in the next two weeks, vice chairman Lee H. Hamilton, a former Indiana Democratic representative, said myriad additional security provisions will be lost in addition to the main purpose of creating a national intelligence czar with oversight of 15 intelligence agencies and full budget control.

“It certainly ought not to hang up literally hundreds of provisions in this bill, including, for example, facilitating emergency responders’ work, including improvements in American foreign policy, including border-security improvements, aviation security. We ought not to hang all of that up on a disputed provision in the immigration side,” Mr. Hamilton said.

“Next week is critical,” Mr. Hamilton said.

Two contentious measures have the House and Senate at odds: Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Wisconsin Republican, is pushing for language to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses; Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says the bill will interfere with the military’s chain of command to receive intelligence and implement it on the battlefield.

If a satellite image is needed immediately over Fallujah, “you don’t go back through some bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., and say ‘Well, general, maybe we can send that satellite over, but, you know, we think the CIA may want to do something else with it, we’ll get back to you,’” Mr. Hunter said.

“The Senate has to move on this provision, or we’ll be worse off than we were before,” Mr. Hunter told “Fox News Sunday.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said the bill’s fate lies in the hands of President Bush, saying the wartime commander must exert more pressure on the Republican holdouts.

“If the president of the United States wants this bill, as commander in chief in the middle of a war, I cannot believe Republicans in the House are going to stop him from getting it,” Mr. Lieberman said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said Mr. Bush’s support shows that the legislation would improve the military’s ability to predict the insurgency in Iraq.

“The commander in chief, our president, supports this bill,” she said. “It’s inconceivable to me that the commander in chief would support a bill that in any way weakened or undermined the flow of intelligence to our troops.”

“The fact is, there is nothing in this bill that in any way hinders military operations or readiness,” Miss Collins said.

On ABC, Mr. Sensenbrenner defended his immigration provision, which he says is designed “to prevent another terrorist attack from happening, rather than managing the consequences of a terrorist attack after it happens.”

The 19 terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11 had 63 different driver’s licenses from five states, all obtained legally, Mr. Sensenbrenner said.

“Unless we are able to plug up the vast hole in the driver’s licenses, we’re not going to be able to provide the type of prevention of a 9/11-type attack in the future,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said.

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