President Bush Signs Intelligence Reform Bill
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RAY SUAREZ: Most of the intelligence reforms signed into law today by the president were among a long list of recommendations made by the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.
And we’re joined by the commission’s chairman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Tom Kean, and the vice-chairman, Lee Hamilton, former Democratic congressman from Indiana.
Governor, did the bill that the president signed today pretty much capture the recommendations that got so much attention when your committee made its final report?
THOMAS KEAN: Yeah, it really did, Ray. We got, I suppose– I don’t know what the estimate is. Maybe 75 percent of the 41 recommendations that we made are contained in this law either in part or in full and a number of them in full. So we’re very gratified today, very pleased, and so are the families.
RAY SUAREZ: Are there any things that you had really wanted to see in there that you figure you’ll have to just wait for another day to see?
THOMAS KEAN: Yeah. There are a number we’re going to continue to work for. Probably the biggest may be congressional reform. We recommended it. As far as intelligence goes, oversight is very, very important and the Congress has not really moved to improve its oversight process.
Homeland Security still appoints– reports to too many committees. There isn’t enough power in the intelligence committees, the House or Senate, to do proper oversight. So that’s a very important one. Another one is foreign policy. We recommended some very strong changes in American foreign policy, particularly to the Arab world, and so we’re going to be looking for those, also.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Hamilton, it wasn’t always the prettiest process but the bill that got signed today, does it pretty much for you capture the main points of the 9/11 Commission’s report?
LEE HAMILTON: Well, it surely does. If you look at the president’s words today and compare those words with the words in the report, there’s an astounding similarity. The president captured, I think very well, the essence of our report, particularly in the area of intelligence.
He spoke about the need for the unity of effort, a unified enterprise, I think was his word, to bring all of the intelligence together and make a unified effort. He put the words about the director of national intelligence, he would determine the budget. He would decide how the money is to be spent. He would report directly to the president.
In the national counterterrorism center, it had the responsibility of bringing the intelligence together and to engage in joint efforts of operational planning. You can just go through that speech point by point by point and compare it to the 9/11 report and they’re almost exactly same.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let’s go to the president’s words. He said today “A key lesson of Sept. 11 is that America’s intelligence agencies must work together” — in your words — “as a single unified enterprise.” Does putting in this new director of intelligence over 15 separate agencies, make it into a single unified enterprise?
LEE HAMILTON: Well, nothing… no law that is enacted accomplishes its goal. No law is self-executing. So it’s going to make all the difference how this bill is implemented.
And that will take real leadership by a lot of people including the president. But you do have here the statutory framework that will enable us to reach a unified intelligence enterprise. So the framework is in place, now we’ve got to implement it.
RAY SUAREZ: Governor, you just heard your vice chairman note the budgetary authority as a big victory. Why was that so important, that this new director of intelligence also control the purse strings?
THOMAS KEAN: Money is power in Washington. I mean, if you look and see what happens, it depends on the appropriations: The appropriations that come from Congress, or the appropriations that are directed from the administration. If you don’t have the power of the purse, you have nothing.
And one of the real problems that intelligence had in the past is the lack of that power. They haven’t been able to direct money among the agencies. Nobody’s been in charge to try and determine that things go the way — the places they ought to go. And so that was very important to us and that was… when the president said that, that was music to our ears.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you were at the signing today, Governor, was it a moment of some satisfaction for you after all the work that went into the Commission’s deliberations and the writing of the report?
THOMAS KEAN: I think there was no question — a lot of satisfaction. Ten of us commissioners, five Republicans and five Democrats, the families of the victims who really turned their own personal tragedies into working hard to make the rest of the American people safer, we were… there was a lot of hugging in the aisles afterwards, a few tears, but a lot of satisfaction that we all believe that because of this bill America is going to be safer.
RAY SUAREZ: Feel the same way, Congressman?
LEE HAMILTON: I do, I think Tom’s expressed it very well: A feeling of satisfaction but not a feeling of triumph. We recognize that we’re through phase one, we’re through phase one successfully, getting the bill enacted into law. But we also know an awful lot of hard work lies ahead in phase two in the implementation of the bill.
So a feeling of satisfaction, yes, but also a feeling that an awful lot more work needs to be done to achieve what Tom talked about there, making the American people safer and more security secure. We’ve got a good start.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, there are a lot of new jobs, a lot of new structures. People have to sort of live their way into making that bill a reality. Have you seen things like this, in your long congressional career, not exactly turn out the way they were intended?
LEE HAMILTON: Oh, sure. This is going to take very, very close monitoring. These new changes, new changes in culture, new changes in structures, they just don’t suddenly blossom. It takes a lot of hard work by a lot of people. And that’s what’s ahead of us here.
What’s good… the good news is we’ve now improved the structure so that the American people can be more secure. The challenge is to make this bill work. And that lies ahead of us.
RAY SUAREZ: Governor, some of the people who have criticisms of the bill come from all across the political spectrum. They’re not necessarily all from left, all from right or all from center.
There are a lot of concerns about the status of military intelligence once all the dust settles and from others, from other quarters, critiques about civil liberties and wondering whether now intelligence agencies are too powerful. What would you say to some of those people?
THOMAS KEAN: Well, as far as civil liberties go, one of the most important things we did and we got into the bill was the creation of a civil liberties board for the first time within the White House that’s able to look at these various proposals and look at what’s happening as this intelligence reform develops and if, in fact, it is impinging on our civil liberties, to report and say so and say “whoa, wait a second let’s look at this a little further.”
That was very, very important to us. And the chairman and the vice chairman will be confirmed by the Senate. It’s going to be a… it’s… rather than have less protection of civil liberties, the kind of mechanism we put in there should have more protection of civil liberties.
And your other point as far as the chain of command goes, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the chain of command remains exactly the same. And I’m sure, believe me, the president of the United States would not have signed this bill if he thought there was any disruption in the chain of command. It stays just the same as it was.
RAY SUAREZ: Lee Hamilton, if you had to describe somebody to the first person to hold this job of intelligence director, what attributes should that person have? What resume should they carry into the job?
LEE HAMILTON: He’s got a tough job of putting all this together. A virtuoso manager; I think some considerable knowledge of intelligence and national security matters would be helpful. He’s going to have to change the culture here. He’s going to have to have marvelous people skills.
I would hope the person would be one a person of outstanding integrity because in order to get away from the politicalization of intelligence this person has to tell the president of the United States, “Mr. President, this is what we know, this is what we don’t know; this is what we think we know. And Mr. President, when you start talking policy, I’m out of the room. My job is not policy, my job is intelligence.” So this job is going to take a person of high skill in many areas. And it is an enormously important position in the federal government.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, your name is on a lot of the lists that keep appearing in the papers, Governor, but rather than ask you… offer you the job, I’ll ask you to talk about what you’d like to see in the first director.
THOMAS KEAN: Well, first of all, everything that Lee Hamilton said is correct and I don’t have a number of those qualifications.
But what is also absolutely essential is this person must have the absolute confidence of the president of the United States. I mean, the president has got to look for somebody… when this person comes in, there can’t be any doubts because he’s got to have total access to the president. This is our first warning system.
This is what we lacked on 9/11. This is somebody who can manage the cases, bring them together and say, “Mr. President, this is something that requires national action, you’ve got to be informed about this.” And he’s got to have total confidence and trust of the president and that’s the kind of person we’re looking for.
RAY SUAREZ: Just a few minutes ago your colleague said that no legislation puts itself into effect. Can you say with some confidence on this day of all days that once these changes are complete, the country will be safer?
THOMAS KEAN: No question it will be safer. It’s never going to be totally safe. This is a very wily– an enemy that wants to hurt us and has the means to and showed it can do it. So we’re never going to be totally safe.
But these reforms, when you put them on in total– not only the intelligence reform but the reforms on transportation security, the reforms on border control, the reforms– all these things put together, you put them all together, we will be safer as a country.
But Lee Hamilton is absolutely correct when he says we’ve got to watch the implementation. This has got to be done right. We’ve got to put the right people and the right structures and make them work.
RAY SUAREZ: And quickly, Congressman: A safer country?
LEE HAMILTON: Yes, a safer country but not safe.
RAY SUAREZ: Lee Hamilton, Tom Kean, gentlemen, thank you both.