Senate Passes Bill To Create Intelligence Organization

Legislation would change management of intelligence groups and oversight of terrorist watch list.

The Senate has passed by a vote of 96 to 2 a bill proposing reforms to the organization and activities of the federal intelligence effort. The House of Representatives will now consider a bill similar to the Senate bill, which advocates the creation of an independent National Intelligence Authority within the executive branch, led by a national intelligence director.

If Congress succeeds in passing the bill, criticism of the Department of Homeland Security leveled by its own Inspector General's office may become irrelevant. The Inspector General had criticized the department, in a report issued in August and made public Oct. 1, for "not playing a lead role in consolidating terrorist watch list information."

The report further states, "DHS is not carrying out significant responsibilities assigned to it under the Homeland Security Act, i.e., orchestrating the integration of terrorist information and establishing national policies and guidelines governing the use of such information. Instead, other federal entities that have traditionally collected, analyzed and disseminated watch list information continue to conduct these efforts under the auspices of two newly created interagency organizations: The Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the Terrorist Screening Center."

The Senate bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and 10 other senators, calls for the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center within the National Intelligence Authority, which could change the management and roles of the existing centers. The proposed counterterrorism center would "develop and unify strategy" for the U.S. government's civilian and military counterterrorism efforts and integrate the government's counterterrorism intelligence activities, both inside and outside the United States, the bill says. The center would establish a Directorate of Intelligence with primary responsibility within the U.S. government for analysis of terrorism and terrorist organizations from all sources of intelligence, both inside and outside the country.

This directorate would be the "principal repository within the United States Government for all-source information on suspected terrorists, their organizations, and their capabilities," the Senate bill says.

It also proposes that the Terrorist Threat Integration Center be transferred from the Central Intelligence Agency to the National Counterterrorism Center. TTIC is an interagency entity managed by the CIA director that gathers, coordinates, and assesses terrorist-related information provided by the State Department and other members of the intelligence community. TTIC passes this data to the Terrorist Screening Center, which was formed jointly in 2003 by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and George Tenet, former director of the CIA. The FBI has responsibility for administering the center, which manages an unclassified terrorist screening database accessible to queries from federal, state, and local agencies for a variety of screening purposes.

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