Pelosi: '9/11 Bill Will Help Protect America and All Americans

For Immediate Release:

December 7, 2004

Contact:Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider
202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement this evening on the final version of the  9/11 intelligence reform bill, which passed the House by a vote of  336 to 75:

“More than four months ago, the 9/11 Commission made a critical judgment.  It concluded that the United States intelligence community was not structured properly to counter the threats, including terrorism, that our nation was likely to face in the years to come.

“In response to that judgment, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission unanimously issued 41 recommendations to make America safer.  The most critical of these was the creation of a powerful manager for the intelligence community, one with the authority to establish budgets, and to move money and people between agencies as dictated by changing needs.

“The Commission’s conclusion and this recommendation mirrored a similar judgment made two years ago by a Congressional Joint Inquiry that neither the President nor the Republican Congress acted upon. Thank heavens we are acting today. 

“The 9/11 Commission’s recommendations – and the tireless advocacy of the 9/11 Commission and the victims’ families – gave us the opportunity to produce a better result today.  We are all greatly in their debt.

“Today, after months of delay by House Republicans, the Congress finally has the opportunity to pass legislation that will help protect America and all Americans.  This legislation will overhaul our intelligence agencies; improve aviation, border, and maritime security; and facilitate the work of police, firefighters, and other emergency responders.  This bill also creates a Director of National Intelligence, though the position is not as strong as was envisioned by the Commission or as contained in the Senate bill.

“In the past few weeks, some have raised concerns that this bill would somehow affect the chain of command relationship in the Department of Defense and therefore make it difficult for military commanders to get the intelligence they need for battlefield operations.  I do not believe those concerns were justified, and I hope that the conference committee’s effort to address them does not embolden those who feel threatened by the prospect of change.  Make no mistake: For nearly 60 years the management of the intelligence community has been a shared responsibility between the Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense.  That system no longer works.  This legislation embodies a fundamental change from shared management to unity of management.  I urge the President not to weaken that principle when he issues implementing regulations.

“Another significant recommendation was the establishment of a civil liberties board.  As we protect and defend the American people from terrorism, we must also protect and defend the Constitution and the civil liberties contained therein.  Again, I wish the conferees could have agreed on a stronger board, as was contained in the Senate bill.  Instead, we will have to rely on the dedication and stature of those appointed to the board to overcome any weaknesses in its powers.

“Thankfully, the worst of the extraneous provisions on immigration and law enforcement that were in the House bill have been removed due to the firm resolve of a majority of the members of the conference committee.  I hope that the Republican leadership will not tarnish this achievement today with commitments to vote on ill-advised changes to our immigration laws in the next Congress.

“There is one recommendation of the 9/11 Commission that we are not considering today and that is congressional oversight.  In addition to the changes in the executive branch, the Commission also recommended changes in the intelligence oversight process in the Congress.  Without effective congressional oversight, the reforms put in place by this bill will be less successful in protecting the American people.  I look forward to working with Speaker Hastert in a bipartisan way to institute more effective congressional oversight.

“Today, we must move forward.  This bill, although not perfect, strengthens the process by which we manage the collection, processing, and dissemination of intelligence.  In so doing, it reduces risk to the American people.  It honors the work of the 9/11 Commission.

“And I hope it will bring some comfort to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  We owe them – and all of the American people – at least this much.  I urge my colleagues to support this bill."