Washington, DC— A House-Senate conference committee has apparently concluded negotiations on the final language of a bill that will reform America’s intelligence services, but which falls far short of the goal of taking common sense measures to protect the homeland security of the United States. In the end, Congress backed away from full implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission in the face of intense lobbying from a small, but vocal coalition of special interests that opposed the immigration reform recommendations made by the Commission.
“Like all Americans, we are pleased that there is a plan in place to reform our intelligence system that failed to see many of the warning signs of an impending attack, and failed to act on information that was gathered,” commented Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “But, unfortunately, the final version of the 9/11 reform bill deliberately failed to close the holes in our immigration laws and enforcement policies that were specifically cited by the Commission as posing an ongoing threat to the security of our nation. In the end, special interest politics trumped homeland security.”
Among the important homeland security measures called for in the Commission’s report, but stripped from the final version of the legislation, were provisions related to document reform, including barring terrorists and illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses, barring the acceptance of foreign consular IDs, limits to judicial review of orders of deportation, and denial of asylum claims for individuals suspected of having ties to terrorist organizations. “On these matters,” said Stein, “the Senate provisions included in this ill-advised bill make things even worse than they are today by actually inviting states to issue driver’s licenses to terrorists and illegal aliens presenting nothing more than unverifiable consular identification cards or other bogus documents to prove their identities.
“Considering that the 19 terrorists who attacked America on September 11, 2001 had 63 driver’s licenses among them, and used those licenses to board the jetliners they turned into weapons of mass destruction, the removal of the driver’s license security provisions is especially irresponsible,” said Stein. “There is overwhelming public support for all of the immigration reforms that were approved by the House, but gutted by the conference committee.
“We, like most Americans, expect that when Congress gets back next month that both chambers will pass free-standing legislation that addresses the immigration-related homeland security issues that the 9/11 Commission identified,” Stein continued. “We can only hope and pray that the loopholes in our homeland security policies that were deliberately sacrificed in order to enact intelligence reform this year, do not result in tragic consequences.”
Human Events Online, Dec. 8, 2004
Floor Statement by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) on Intelligence Bill, Dec. 7
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the conference report. The House bill not only reformed our intelligence community—it also secured our border. Unfortunately, the conference has left us with an incomplete product that does not secure the border.
The House bill followed the 9/11 Commission’s common sense recommendation that we have federal standards for driver’s licenses. The 9/11 Commission said: “For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.” Despite many attempts to keep these weapons away from terrorists, this bill does not do the job.
In fact, the language in the conference report is worse than current law, and it practically invites terrorists to come into our country and apply for these crucial identification documents. There is no enforcement or certification at the national level. There is no expiration when the visa expires. There is no data sharing between the states. And any state can simply walk away from the requirements. That does not sound like drivers’ license reform to me. Rather, it sounds like a recipe for disaster—the same kind of disaster that happened on 9/11. Remember that the 9/11 hijackers had multiple validly issued state licenses among them. That is how they got on to those airplanes. That is what we were trying to stop with these provisions. I regret that we have failed, but I can assure you that the issue is not going away.
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