Joel Mowbray

Less controversial House-authored provisions, but which were nonetheless excluded from the original Senate bill, also were included in the final package.

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) won on a number of fronts, especially on the ?terrorist travel? sections.  Most important, though, was a change in the process for renewing the official designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

Every two years, the FBI, CIA, DOJ, and the State Department must go through a lengthy and cumbersome process to renew the FTO designation of any terrorist group, including for the likes of al Qaeda and Hamas. 

So, to free up thousands of man-hours of highly-skilled and intensely valuable counterterrorism officials, the intelligence bill includes a Gallegly-authored clause that changes the renewal period to every five years and significantly streamlines the process.  FTO-designated groups can still petition to be dropped from the list?few ever have?but now the burden of proof is on them to show that they are not engaged in any forms of terrorism.

In order to help the State Department in its task of preventing terrorists from entering the United States, Mr. Gallegly successfully pushed an increase in consular officers by 150 each year and for beefed-up training in detection of fraudulent documents.  Both measures had the support of Foggy Bottom.

One provision opposed by State, though, was requiring that all nonimmigrant visa applications?meaning those for temporary travel to the U.S.?must be ?reviewed and adjudicated by a consular officer.? 

What now happens in many consulates and embassies is that although the visa may be physically stamped by a consular officer, most of the legwork is done by Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs), local residents who work at the post.  FSNs pose grave security risks, particularly since their fraud is often punished by mere slaps on the wrist?if at all.

Though the media has portrayed the final intelligence bill as a near-total loss for House conservatives, the supposedly defeated lawmakers know better.  And though he didn?t get some of the border security measures he strongly supported, Mr. Sensenbrenner?s overall record would suggest that the Democrats only managed to throw him in the briar patch.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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