WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate and House committees will hold an
unusual round of August hearings on intelligence reform after
leaders of the Sept. 11 commission warned that America remained
vulnerable to another deadly terror strike.
“The American people expect us to act,” Sen. Susan
Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs
Committee, said Friday. “We don’t have the luxury of
waiting for months.”
Collins and the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Joseph
Lieberman of Connecticut, said they would invite the
commission’s leaders, Republican Thomas Kean and Democratic
Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, to testify.
The hearings will focus on two of the commission’s key
recommendations: creating a national counterterrorism center and a
new director of intelligence to be confirmed by the Senate and with
Cabinet-level authority over budgets and intelligence policies.
Congress began its recess Friday and was to be out of session
until after Labor Day.
“This is a crisis. People died, and more people will
unless we get it together,” Lieberman said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority
Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) also urged the committee to introduce
legislation by Oct. 1 addressing the intelligence proposals, and
the committee said it would do so.
Late Friday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who has
expressed doubt that lawmakers would have time to consider a
sweeping intelligence overhaul this year, said he and Majority
Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) would also direct House committees to
hold hearings next month and make recommendations for legislation
Earlier in the day, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of
California urged Hastert in a letter to reconvene the House in
August, and Hastert responded that he would seek hearings
“over the next several months.”
He later announced the August hearings.
“The House plans to immediately assess everything we have
done … since 9/11 and everything more we need to do,”
Kean, a former New Jersey governor, and Hamilton, a former
congressman from Indiana, told reporters Friday that swift action
was critical. They said Congress should get to work after the
summer recess while the next president — either President
Bush or Democratic challenger John Kerry — must push for the
overhaul soon after taking office in January.
“We’re in danger of just letting things
slide,” Kean said. “Time is not on our side.”
In its blistering report Thursday, the panel of five Republicans
and five Democrats cited multiple intelligence failures that
contributed to the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history.