Susan Collins

Victory for Americans - Dec. 10, 2004

Susan Collins
December 10, 2004
Weekly Column
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Before the 108th Congress adjourned, we made history by passing the Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. This landmark legislation should make a real difference in our country’s security and will help keep Americans safer. This bill is the most sweeping reform of our nation’s intelligence community in more than 50 years. Based on the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, the legislation reorganizes the executive branch to transform the country’s intelligence agencies into a modern structure designed to fight terrorism and other emerging security threats. The current Cold War structure was designed for a different enemy and a different time and has not proved agile enough to counter the threat of terrorism. I am proud to have co-authored this historic, bipartisan bill with Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. This landmark reform, however, would also not have been possible without the overwhelming support of family members of 9-11 victims, the 9-11 Commission, and the President. The 9-11 families have turned unspeakable tragedy into positive action. They were the moral conviction driving us to complete this important legislation. The families have been involved since the beginning in a quest to make this country safer, which for them, began on that horrific day three years ago when terrorists took the lives of their loved ones. The family members demonstrated incredible strength and grace during this long process. They dedicated their lives to ensuring that the death of their family members not be in vain and that Congress not fail our country on this issue. The 9-11 Commission released its report in July, which clearly stated that intelligence reform was imperative to transform our intelligence agencies into a system capable of handling current threats and that this reform needed to happen now. It is this sense of urgency that drove me, as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to begin work on this legislation immediately following the release of the Commission’s report. In late July, just one week after being assigned by the Senate leadership to examine the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission and draft legislation based on the report, I scheduled the first of eight hearings during which we heard testimony from two dozen intelligence and homeland security experts including members of the Administration. In drafting this bill, we used the 9/11 Commission’s report as our blueprint. The Collins-Lieberman bill implements the core recommendations, which were a result of 20 months of investigations into the intelligence failures prior to the attacks on September 11, 2001. The Commission endorsed our bill as a strong effort that was faithful to their recommendations. The bill creates a powerful new Director of National Intelligence to coordinate our intelligence efforts. Now there will be an empowered quarterback in charge of our intelligence team, someone who will be both responsible and accountable. It also creates a National Counterterrorism Center to coordinate all national intelligence information and better connect the dots. The center will be staffed with analysts from the intelligence agencies. Thus, we will have a cadre of people who are experts, who bring their own perspectives to intelligence analysis, and who will also engage in operational planning. Further, the bill takes ground-breaking steps to improve border security, foreign policy, transportation security, and information sharing across the intelligence agencies. The President and the Vice President worked hard to bring this legislation to fruition. Both the Senate and House of Representatives approved the Collins-Lieberman bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. Our bill passed the Senate with a vote of 89 to 2 and the House by a vote of 336 to 75. The process was difficult and often contentious because we all cared so deeply about getting it right. I am so proud that ultimately Congress was able to put the American people and our nation’s security first and work across party lines and with the President to achieve this monumental reform. This landmark legislation is going to improve the quality of intelligence for our troops in the battlefields, as well as help make our civilians here at home safer. Working on this bill has been the most satisfying accomplishment of my Senate career, and I am hopeful that as we enter a new Congress, Senators will use this same successful bi-partisan formula as we address other critical issues. This is an historic day for our country and a great achievement for the American people.