Statement on the 9/11 Reform Bill and the Need for Congressional and Public Oversight – Archive

Statement on the 9/11 Reform Bill
and the Need for Congressional and Public Oversight

December 14, 2004

With the passage of the 9/11 bill, Congress moved to correct some of the problems in our security network identified by the 9/11 Commission. When the provisions of this bill are implemented, there will be a major reorganization of our intelligence community and increased border and port security.

However, the work of Congress is not finished. There are two critical issues regarding Congressional and public oversight which must be addressed.

First, when the 109th Congress convenes, it must confront the issue of centralizing and strengthening Congressional oversight of intelligence and homeland security. The Commission made clear that overhauling Congressional oversight is vital to the success of the improved security capabilities in the 9/11 legislation.

The 9/11 bill created a powerful Director of National Intelligence with sweeping budgetary and personnel authorities. The integrity and autonomy of the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) are crucial to effective implementation of intelligence reform. We call for a respected, non-partisan professional to be appointed to the position of DNI.

With so much power concentrated in one position, Congress must immediately move to streamline its oversight of our intelligence apparatus, thus eliminating the fractured, disorganized hodgepodge of committees which are currently responsible for oversight. Reorganization for the purpose of monitoring and assessing our intelligence network should be a priority in the new Congress. This is no time to be complacent.

Once again we must ask Congress to rise above the powerful urge to protect turf and power, and do what is best for the nation. To verify their commitment to improving oversight, we call upon all Members of Congress to pledge to vote against any Rules package for the 109th Congress that does not include a reorganization of the Committee structure consistent with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Second, it is unsettling that the bill provides for controversial police powers which were not recommended by the 9/11 Commission while at the same time it fails to create the strong Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended by the Commission. Under the expanded surveillance powers and relaxed detention rules in this legislation, there is the potential for abuse and erosion of our civil liberties. This potentially dangerous imbalance must be addressed immediately by the new Congress via amendment to ensure strong, independent, public oversight and accountability. The current provisions in which the Board has no substantial power and is only appointed by the President are unacceptable in that they guarantee neither autonomy, efficacy nor accountability. To ensure independence and effectiveness of public oversight, Congress must mandate that the entire Civil Liberties Board be appointed jointly by the President and Congress with approval by the Senate. In addition, it is imperative that the Board have subpoena and other powers necessary to compel both private and federal entities to comply with its requests. This will help preserve the balance between our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberty and privacy rights, and the need to provide law enforcement with legal authority to effectively combat terrorism.

We look forward to working with the 109th Congress and the 9/11 Commissioners on these issues.