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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Static Intelligence Laws Need Updating

July 23, 2007
Weekly Columns

Last week, the Director of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) presented a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to the President and the Congress.  The findings in this document highlight, among other things, the escalating threat that our nation faces from terrorist groups and their cells, particularly Al-Qaeda.  Intelligence officials are struggling to take the necessary steps to ward off potential attacks, but outdated intelligence laws within the system prevent them from more accurately securing the safety of America.

The NIC serves to provide policymakers and the public with reliable written judgments on national security.  The main resource, the NIE report, provides information to brief policy makers on the most likely course of future security threats to the homeland.  The recent published report concludes that the intent of terrorist groups to attack the United States is escalating, although their ability to carry out attacks has diminished.  Even though America is safer since 2001, it is disturbing that the hateful ideology of terrorists and their desire to inflict harm has increased exponentially.

Meanwhile in Congress, many have continued to play politics when they should be acting to close the terrorist loophole that exists due to of out-of-date intelligence laws.  For example, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) needs to be revised to empower the United States' ability to collect information about potential threats to the American people.
 Our current antiquated intelligence laws inhibit the ability of the U.S. government to act quickly in the event of a potential threat to our homeland.  The system that is presently in use has been described as "long and slow" by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.  Intelligence agents need to be able to take the necessary steps to quickly and efficiently conduct surveillance against suspected terrorists.  Further, the laws to support intelligence agents should keep pace with the technological advancements that have developed since the FISA laws were enacted in 1978.  Improving our intelligence capabilities will enable the authorities to stay on top of the emerging threats that were illuminated in the NIE.

In addition to the FIC's findings, the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that we are in a dangerous situation where the U.S. is increasingly vulnerable to a terrorist attack from al-Qaeda.  Forcing our government to wait for a court order before conducting electronic surveillance on suspected foreign terrorists is absurd.  The terrorists who wish to destroy us are not entitled to the same rights as law abiding citizens.  Those who suggest otherwise simply do not understand the dangers our country faces in the war on terror.  If we are negligent in updating our intelligence methods, we risk more terrorist attacks in the future.

Oklahomans have first-hand knowledge of the horrors of domestic terrorism and have a keen understanding of ulterior threats faced as citizens of the United States.  Please know that I have no higher priority as a Member of Congress than making sure we take every possible measure to keep our citizenry safe from potential terrorist acts.

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