Now that the National Intelligence Reform Act has passed, what do we get? A new office of the intelligence director, for one thing. Also, I'm guessing, a new office building of the intelligence director. Then there's the new intelligence director, of course, congressionally mandated to act reformed.
After much sturm and politicking, the act leaves military command decisions to military commanders -- for which we can be alternately irritated that this came onto the table and grateful it came off again. It also calls for information-sharing among different branches of intelligence. Which is a smart thing to do. But was an act of Congress the only way to do it?
More perplexing than what's in this bill, though, is what's been left out. Or cut out, rather. This is a huge, historic piece of legislation, wholly inspired by the systemic intelligence and immigration policy failures of Sept. 11, 2001 that allowed an extensive jihadist network to train, plot and operate freely in this country. Even so, the act the president will sign into law fails to plug up one of the most gaping homeland security holes: the ease with which practically anyone gets a state driver's license in this country, including, in 11 states, illegal aliens. Many other states require only a social security number, not difficult to come by fraudulently, to obtain a driver's license. The driver's license may be essential to life as we know it, providing the I.D. necessary to bank, buy and travel, but something's wrong with the system that allowed 19 Al Qaeda hijackers to amass 63 of them.
Republicans in the House of Representatives know this. A stalwart band, among them J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, ensured that the bill sent to the Senate included a provision for national standards to license drivers that would at least make it more difficult for murder-minded aliens to snooker the local DMV and tootle off on a path of mass destruction.
(Not incidentally, such driver's license reform is urged in the 9/11 Commission Report.) Also written into the House version of the intelligence reform bill was an equally sensible provision to tighten asylum laws that now allow potential terrorists free movement in the country.