Thursday, December 09, 2004

One for the ages: Robert Byrd is right!

Senator Robert Byrd, the Senate's new Southern Democratic bard (now that Fritz Hollings is retiring) does have a habit of being right several times each year, which makes him vastly superior to other Senate Democrats, most of whom are rarely, if ever, right about anything.

Yesterday, the Senate approved a new intelligence package that the House had accepted only after significant changes to the bill. The House Leadership was primarily concerned over two issues:

1.) Concern that the new National Intelligence Director might be able to short-circuit the military chain of command, a system that is independent of the CIA and is answerable to its own intellengence operation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA. New language in the bill allows the NID post to be effective but it will do so without shortcutting military discipline.

2.) Concern that the new NID might be able to do a legal end-run-around over the CIA charter, which does not allow the spy agency to operate domestically. Republicans and Democrats alike were concerned that this "intelligence Czar" might be able to use the collaborative power of his office (which would share information from all U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI) to get CIA info on U.S, citizens. A notable concern, one which the new legislation tries to address (but seems to fall somewhat short).

Senator Byrd, however, raised a real concern: Illegal immigration, and its impact on our security, which many GOP Members of Congress cited as their reason for voting "no" on the original bill.

"I am for intelligence reform and many things in this bill, but we cannot expect reforms without closing these gaps in illegal immigration," Mr. Byrd said. He and Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, cast the only votes against the bill. (See the related story in the Washington Times.)

Senator Byrd and Senator Inhofe are right to raise this concern, and it is a real problem for our national security. As seems to be the case in any politics surrounding 9/11 lately, we are caving to the wishes of victims' families. These families are doing what I would likely do if I were in their situation: Operating on emotion, not looking at the long-term consequences of the way we deal with these issues. As a result, the victims' families want any bill they can view as "tough," without regard to whether the legislation is either right for the country or constitutionally sound. That kind of mentality on a large political scale is very dangerous for America.


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