MENENDEZ HAILS PASSAGE OF 9/11 BILL

WASHINGTON, DC -- Rep. Bob Menendez, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a conferee on the 9/11 bill, today made the following statement on passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, following months of negotiations.  The bill passed by a vote of 336 to 75.

“We, as a Congress, pledged to do everything possible to make sure the tragic events of 9/11 were never repeated.  The 9/11 Commission was created to investigate what went wrong, and what we must do to protect the American people moving forward.  Nothing is more important than that mission. 

“With the passage of this legislation, we have made sweeping changes to our homeland security and intelligence operations, and have taken a further step in preventing future terrorist attacks.  Is it perfect?  No it isn’t, but it addresses the key intelligence failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to succeed. 

“Following the unanimous and bi-partisan recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, I was pleased to work side-by-side with my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the House and Senate to negotiate a bill that protects our nation and makes America safer for future generations during a time of sustained threat.  This bill will implement the critical recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and, in doing so, protect the American people by reforming and strengthening our intelligence agencies that collect, process, and disseminate intelligence.  This is the first comprehensive overhaul of our intelligence apparatus since 1947, updating it from the Cold War to the War on Terror.

“Throughout my work as a conferee on this bill, I always remembered the 122 constituents in my district, who did not return to their families on September 11th – the men and women, who lost their lives because the terrorists slipped through the cracks of a decentralized and aging intelligence structure.  Today’s bill will, once again, put faith in a system that needed reform and improvement to face the challenges of global terrorism.

“The bill establishes a Director of National Intelligence in charge of all of the government’s intelligence gathering, analysis, and counter-terrorism operations.  It streamlines and unifies our intelligence-gathering capabilities, fosters greater intelligence sharing, and ends the senseless turf battles that plague the current system.  By doing so, the bill improves the overall quality of our intelligence.

“The legislation also contains numerous and significant immigration-, visa security-, and border security-related provisions.  In fact, according to an analysis by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, there are 43 sections of immigration-related provisions in the conference report, a total of 100 out of the more than 600 pages of the bill.  These provisions include: adding thousands of additional border patrol agents, immigration and customs investigators, and detention beds; testing advanced technologies like sensors, video, and unmanned aerial vehicles in securing our borders; criminalizing the smuggling of immigrants; making inadmissible and deportable any alien who commits acts of torture, extrajudicial killing, or atrocities abroad; and establishing minimum standards for birth certificates and driver’s licenses, just as the 9/11 Commission report recommended.

“We owe the 9/11 Commissioners and the 9/11 families our sincere and heartfelt thanks.  There would have been no Commission without the family members.  It was their perseverance and their quest for the truth about what happened to their loved ones that made not only the 9/11 Commission, but this agreement, possible.

“I was pleased to sponsor the House substitute, which, along with the Senate bill, was the baseline for today’s bill, and consider the product of our negotiations the most important work of the entire 108th Congress, if not that of many Congresses to come.   Today's passage is a victory for all Americans.”