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Congress Passes Sweeping Intelligence Reform

The bill, which President Bush is expected to soon sign into law, incorporates many of the recommendations of the independent panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

The House adopted the measure Tuesday by a 336-75 vote and the Senate approved it Wednesday after the House-Senate conference committee worked out a compromise earlier in the week. The compromise addressed members’ concerns that establishing a national intelligence director would interfere with the current chain of military command.

The national intelligence director would replace the CIA director as the president’s senior intelligence advisor. The White House has not indicated whether CIA Director Porter Goss would become the national director or whether he would stay at the agency, according to The Washington Post.

The national intelligence director would need Senate confirmation.

The bill would write into law the National Counterterrorism Center, which President Bush created by executive order in August. Its director would be a presidential appointee, confirmed by the Senate, who would report on counterterrorism operations directly to the president.

The measure also creates a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, designed to safeguard individuals’ rights.

In addition, the legislation would:

* require minimum standards for drivers’ licenses and other identification required to board aircraft and enter federal facilities;

* criminalize giving material support to suspected terrorists and provide new investigative authority to pursue “lone wolf” terror suspects not affiliated with other known groups or foreign powers;

* require extensive sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information among federal, state, local and private entities;

* direct the Department of Homeland Security to develop a national strategy for transportation security, test an airline passenger prescreening system and pursue biometric screening technology for airports;

* add at least 2,000 border patrol agents and 800 customs agents each year for five years and 8,000 beds a year to house immigration detainees and people suspected of terrorism;

* stiffen visa application requirements;

* set minimum sentences for possessing or trafficking in missile systems designed to destroy aircraft;

* allocate money for added security for air cargo and requires study into the development of blast-resistant cargo and baggage containers;

* seek to improve diplomacy by increased education and exchange programs with the Muslim world, promote economic development efforts and maintain financial aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan;

* make receiving military-type training from a designated terrorist group an offense that can result in deportation;

* authorize new federal support for efforts to reduce money laundering and increase tracing of some cross-border financial transactions; and

* test the idea of using pilotless aircraft to oversee the Northern and Southwestern borders, according to The New York Times.

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