U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that would implement recommendations of a bipartisan federal commission aimed at preventing another terrorist attack on the United States. Congress returned to work Tuesday after a month-long recess.
The legislation calls for establishing a national intelligence director and a counter-terrorism center, and implementing other proposals put forward by the commission that probed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and cosponsor of the bill noted the measure was introduced just days before the third anniversary of the attacks.
"Our actions will never erase the pain and destruction of that terrible day," he said. "We can honor those who suffered, and the best way to pay tribute to the fallen and hurt is to ensure that terrorists are never again able to attack our country."
Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and another co-sponsor of the bill, says he hopes the measure will pass before Congress adjourns for the year in early October.
"We are going to mark this bill up during the week of September 20," he said. "We expect to report it out to the floor and have it ready for action during the week of September 27."
A similar bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, and Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat.
Other measures to reform the intelligence community are also being considered in the House and Senate.
Although some lawmakers are warning that Congress should not rush to reform U.S. intelligence agencies amid a partisan political atmosphere ahead of November's election, the vice chairman of the September 11th commission, Lee Hamilton, is urging lawmakers not to wait.
Mr. Hamilton made his comments at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
"We believe it is urgent that these recommendations, or variations thereof, be adopted," he said.
The September 11th Commission found major failures in intelligence gathering and sharing before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says intelligence reform is expected to be a key issue in Congress over the next month. He says Senate confirmation of Congressman Porter Goss to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency is also a priority.
President Bush nominated the Florida Republican to be CIA chief after Director George Tenet resigned in July.
John McLaughlin has been serving as Acting Director in the interim.