Senate bill follows 9-11 advice

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation today that would adopt many of the 9-11 Commission's recommendations to strengthen homeland security, including an extensive information-sharing network across all levels of government.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who announced six weeks ago that they would draft a bill based on the commission's work, are prime sponsors of the proposed 280-page legislation.

Among other things, the bill would establish a far-reaching information-sharing network for intelligence and homeland security information throughout federal, state and local governments. It would also develop an integrated screening system using a network of screening points at the borders, in the transportation system and in other critical infrastructures, according to a press release.

Other recommendations include establishing a national intelligence director with budget oversight over the various intelligence agencies. The bill would also create a national counterterrorism organization built on the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which is a multiagency entity that gives analysts access to more than two dozen federal networks.

"This legislation represents the efforts of members from both parties working together for the common good of reforming our intelligence community, an effort in which I hope our colleagues will join us so we can enact the necessary changes to win the war on terrorism," Bayh said in a prepared statement.

"We are certainly on alert, and the time has come for some action to put all of the intelligence agencies under one umbrella," Specter said in the same press release. "With the filing of this very distinguished commission's report, the time is really ripe for action. There is no doubt in my mind that had all of the information been available in a coordinated matter, that [the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001] could have been prevented."

Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) plan to introduce companion legislation in the House.

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