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US Senate Moves to Shore Up Intelligence Agencies - 2001-11-09

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a measure to shore up intelligence agencies so they can better crack down on terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama, says the legislation should help the United States wage its war on terrorism.

"The war we fight today is an intelligence driven war to a degree that we have never seen," Senator Shelby said. "This war has no front lines, and the field of combat is global. Wherever terrorists and their supporters can be found, that is the battlefield. Never before have we demanded or have we needed so much from our intelligence services."

The Senate bill is generally in line with what President Bush has requested for intelligence spending - about seven percent more than the current year.

The House bill which passed last month called for a nine-percent increase.

Much of the legislation is kept classified, although the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, outlined some of the bill's priorities.

He said it would revitalize the National Security Agency so that it can better analyze information it gathers from broadcasts, computers and other electronic means of communication.

Mr. Graham said the bill also places new emphasis on developing human intelligence and hiring people with special language skills something the agencies have been struggling to do.

"In Afghanistan, for instance, there are in addition to English and Arabic, there are at least six major domestic languages. We are very deficient in our capabilities as a nation in many of these languages," Senator Graham said. "We must increase the diversity of our human intelligence, our spies. We must recruit more effectively to operate in many places around the world where U.S. interests are threatened."

Negotiators from the House and Senate will now have to resolve differences in their two bills before a final version is sent to President Bush for his signature.