MOULTRIE -- Congress reconvenes Dec. 6, but U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss doubts a compromise intelligence reform bill can be hammered out before the end of the year.
At that time, the new Congress will come into session.
"We're going to have to start over again, but still, there's a base on which to work," Chambliss said Tuesday after addressing local Kiwanis and Rotary club members.
A week and a half ago, a compromise bill collapsed in conference after U.S. Reps. James Sensenbrenner Jr. and Duncan Hunter, close friends of Chambliss, balked at a compromise.
A couple of immigration provisions included in the House bill were left out of the Senate bill. One clamps down on issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
The House language makes it harder for refugees to claim asylum restrictions in order to prevent would-be terrorists from being granted legal residence in the U.S.
Chambliss said he thinks it's an opportunity to follow the direction of the 9/11 Commission and restrict the issuance of driver's licenses to illegal aliens.
"Those 19 hijackers had a total of 63 driver's licenses from various jurisdictions around the country. They were able to move freely around the country without any interference in the standpoint of their travel," he said in a Monday conference call.
Tuesday, Chambliss said, "Whether we do it in that bill or in the realm of an overall immigration reform package we work on next year -- I don't know if it's a show-stopper for me on the (intelligence) reform package. It is an opportunity to get it done. It's a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, so it's difficult for me to see how they can argue against it. The conferees will have to make that decision."
Another huge sticking point is how much power and authority should be taken from the Pentagon. Right now, the Pentagon has about 80 percent of the money involved in intelligence, Chambliss said, and is the largest "customer "of the CIA and the other intelligence organizations.
The senator said he, like many other senators, voted for the bill to get it out of the Senate into conference with assurances of necessary changes in the bill that originated in the Senate. He would not have voted on it as a final bill, he said.
Changes must take place; It's just a matter of degree, he said.
"I sympathize somewhat. I told Duncan this, we've got to give the director of Central Intelligence -- whatever we call him -- the power and authority to do his job, and one way we do that is to give him ability to exercise control over the budget," he said, adding that the military side must be satisfied.
The House and Senate do agree on the creation of a national intelligence director and a national counterterrorism center. These are "no-brainers," the senator said.
Chambliss said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has come under intense scrutiny and criticism since 9/11 for major intelligence failures. Passage of an intelligence reform bill is necessary but not as urgent as some say, he said.
"A lot of people out there say that we're going to continue to be in danger until we get this done. That's not true. Our guys are doing a great job today in the intel community. This will be an asset for them in a number of ways, but it's not going to have an immediate affect on the safety of America," he said.
Chambliss claims the new director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss, a Florida Republican who led the House Intelligence Committee until August, as one of his very best friends.
At least five top operational officials have left since Goss took over, the Associated Press recently reported. The senator said the shakeup is good for the CIA.
The directorship of the CIA is the second hardest job in Washington. The first one is president, he said.
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This Week's Circulars
MOULTRIE, GA.- Edna Courtney West, 90, of Moultrie, passed away Wednesday, November 24, 2021, at Archbold Medical Center. Cobb Funeral Chapel has been entrusted with arrangements. Please sign the online guestbook at www.cobbfuneralchapel.com.
Mrs. Mary Martha Crews McBurney, 98 of Alexandria, Louisiana, passed from this life, Saturday, November 20, 2021 at her residence. Arrangements to be announced by Hixson Brothers of Alexandria.
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