Senate Approves Intelligence Overhaul Bill

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:22pm EDT

( - In a vote of 89-2, the U.S. Senate Wednesday approved the intelligence overhaul bill sending it to the president's desk for signing.

The bill would create a new national intelligence director, establish a counterterrorism center, set priorities for intelligence gathering, and tighten U.S. borders. It also represents the biggest change in intelligence gathering and analysis since the creation of the CIA.

"This is a monumental achievement. These reforms have been 50 years in the making and the specific proposals included in this bill are the result of no less than 46 different commissions, reviews and studies," said Sen. John Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Under the remarkable leadership of Senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman who brilliantly shepherded this legislation through Congress, our nation will soon have a Director of National Intelligence who can begin to effectively coordinate all of our intelligence agencies for the first time since the creation of the National Security Act of 1947," added Rockefeller.

But Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who voted against the final passage of the bill, said he "joined the majority of our Oklahoma delegation in voting against" the bill. Inhofe said while he agreed with many provisions in the bill, "there were also glaring omissions" that he said were "impossible to overlook."

"Stripped from the final version of this bill were five provisions that I felt were absolutely imperative to include in this reform package. Once you pass a bill, you lose your leverage to get those things that were controversial back in the bill," Inhofe said in a statement.

"I do not have any doubt that the Speaker would bring this up at the beginning of the next Congress, but I have serious doubts that once passed in the House that those five areas that I have outlined would be corrected in the Senate," he said.

Inhofe said people would be "outraged to know that there is a 3.5 mile gap" in the United States' fence line Mexico "that exists solely to preserve the environment of five birds that are protected by the Endangered Species Act."

The provision that addresses this issue was removed from the bill "because apparently repairing our border will disturb these five animals," Inhofe said.

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