Congress passes Homeland security bill

Congress sent President Bush legislation Friday to intensify anti-terror efforts in the U.S., shifting money to high-risk states and cities and expanding screening of air and sea cargo to stave off future Sept. 11-style attacks.

The measure carries out major recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission.

The bill, passed by the House on a 371-40 vote, ranks among the top accomplishments of the six-month-old Democratic Congress. The Senate approved the measure late Thursday by 85-8, and the White House said the president would sign the bill.

Six years after the Sept. 11 attacks and three years after the 9/11 Commission made its recommendations, “Congress is finally embracing what the 9/11 families have been saying all along,” said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. “It takes a willingness to do things a different way.”

The bill elevates the importance of risk factors in determining which states and cities get federal security funds — that would mean more money for such cities as New York and Washington — and also puts money into a new program to assure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.

It would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years and sets a five-year goal of scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who steered the legislation through the Senate with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it would “make our nation stronger, our cities and towns more secure and our families safer.”

Republicans generally backed the bill while stressing their own administration’s success in stopping another major terrorist attack. The bill, said Rep. Peter King of New York, top Republican on the Homeland Security panel, “is another step in the right direction building on the steps of the previous 5 1/2 years.”

“These efforts build upon the considerable progress we’ve made over the past six years,” said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Completion of the bill, six months after the House passed its original version on the first day of the current Congress, was a major victory for Democrats who have seen some of their other priorities — immigration and energy reform and stem cell research funding — thwarted by GOP and presidential resistance and House-Senate differences.

Another goal, raising the minimum wage, went into effect last Tuesday, and Democratic leaders still hope for agreement on ethics and lobbying changes before Congress departs for its August recess at the end of next week.

The independent 9/11 Commission in 2004 issued 41 recommendations covering domestic security, intelligence gathering and foreign policy. Congress and the White House followed through on some, including creating a director of national intelligence, tightening land border screening and cracking down on terrorist financing.

Democrats, after taking over control of Congress, promised to make completing the list a top priority.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., the vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, said with enactment of the bill some 80 percent of the panel’s recommendations will have been met. “The bottom line is that the American people will be safer,” he said.

The 9/11 bill led off the first busy legislative week in the House last January, and the Senate passed its version in March. The measure stalled after that, partly because of a White House veto threat over language, since dropped, to give collective bargaining rights to aviation screeners.

House-Senate negotiators finally reached an agreement this week after Democrats worked out a provision satisfying GOP demands that people who report what they in good faith believe to be terrorist activity around planes, trains and buses be protected from lawsuits.

The most controversial provision in the legislation requires the radiation scanning of cargo containers in more than 600 ports from which ships leave for the U.S. The White House, and other critics, say that the technology isn’t there, that the requirement could disrupt trade and that current procedures including manifest inspections at foreign ports and radiation monitoring in U.S. ports are working well.

Supporters argue that the unthinkable devastation from the detonation of a nuclear device in an American port makes it imperative to scan cargo before it reaches U.S. shores. As a compromise, it was agreed that the Homeland Security secretary can extend the five-year deadline for 100 percent scanning in two-year increments if necessary.

The White House was also unhappy with a provision that requires total amounts requested and appropriated for the intelligence community to be made public.

There was more agreement on changing the formula to ensure that more federal security grants go to high-risk states and cities. The current formula makes sure that every lawmaker, even those representing rural areas relatively safe from terrorism, get a chunk of the federal grants. Under the new formula a larger percentage of grants will go to high-risk urban areas.

The bill also establishes a new grant program to ensure that local, state and federal officials can communicate with each other and approves $4 billion over four years for rail, transit and bus security.

It strengthens security measures for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travelers from select countries to visit the United States without visas.

The massive legislation also contains language requiring the president to confirm that Pakistan is making progress in combatting al-Qaida and Taliban elements within its borders before the United States provides aid to the country.

Hamilton said that one shortcoming of the bill is that it fails to carry out the commission’s recommendation that Congress streamline its own overlapping setup for monitoring intelligence and homeland security matters. “I think congressional oversight still remains a weakness in our homeland security,” he said.


The bill is H.R. 1

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  1. Carl Nemo

    Hi Gene…

    Consumer spending generates jobs for the Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Mexican, and third world workers anywhere and everywhere, while America’s jobs have been outsourced at the rate of two million per annum!

    The major exports from this nation from the ports of Los Angeles and New York are scrap metal and cardboard. Our premier exports are the weapons of war being sold to both our allies and enemies. These are products that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

    These offshore entities produce the goods. The U.S. owners of these offshore corporate enterprises live in the luxury and safety under the U.S. nuclear umbrella making obscene profits, paying no tariffs, minimal to zero taxes and depositing their massive capital gains courtesy of our duplicit Congress into their offshore, tax free havens. Ah, pirate capitalism at it’s best…no?!

    They keep our elected disappointments’ palms greased and life is good for all of them while they laugh their collective butts off as their consumeristic, feedlot cattle, many dosed on Prozac or it’s analogs continue to shop until they drop. They own “we the people”, lock, stock, and barrel and their livestock are performing exactly as engineered! I’m surprised they haven’t had us all branded/tattooed with their NWO symbol/logo of ownership?! I’m sure that’s to come with both a mark and an RFID implant.

    We live in truly evil, “rotted” times! Before things get better they will get infinitely worse. They’ve sown the wind and “we the people” not only of the U.S., but the world shall reap the whirlwind…!

    There’s hope though! In terms of cosmic time and space and most importantly for our planet; i.e, Mother Earth. They will fail and by my research and estimates the entire world paradigm will fail totally and absolutely by 2050, possibly even sooner. Needless to say there will be a great pruning of humankind via pestilence, famine, and plague. The wonderful thing about our microbial friends; i.e, bacteria and viruses is that they are the great levelers of both the mighty and meek!

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. gene

    “the right to shop until they drop”…consumer spending is what has created so many jobs Carl along with all the construction of new homes that now has become a glutt. People were also (as you well know) using their homes as atms, borrowing against the (perceived not real) value of their homes. This spending is slowing down and will come to a dramatic halt soon, with that goes many of these service jobs that pay little and have few benifits.

    Going to be a tuff environment to live in if your debt load is high as prices continue to rise, ie. no ability to absorb the increase that will be substantial in many areas of our life.

  3. Carl Nemo

    Of course we’re dead broke as a nation, so this is just a continuing domestic version of the shakedown of the American taxpayer/debtor as we see concerning the engineered Iraqi debacle courtesy of the Wolfowitz-Feith-Cheney rogue intelligence pipeline.

    I believe the following flow-chart will get the message across…

    9/11> Patriot Act> Homeland Security created> TSA created> GITMO created> Patriot Act renewed> NSA and telephone co. complicity in spying on Americans> Military Commissions Act created> New Homeland “Insecurity” act created> What’s next for “we the people”…?! 😐

    p.s. Habeas corpus and Posse Commitatus x’d out too from our foundational guarantees to protect us from an over-reaching government.

    Total cost of all these questionable government boondoggles, “trillions”, cost-benefit…zero to none; ie., doubtful…! We had an FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA in place prior to 9/11 that were costing us a veritable fortune and they failed us. When it came out in the hearings and follow-up they all managed to either ignore information being passed up from the field or from foreign governments, so now trillions more have been wasted and all we hear from Mike Chertoff that he has “a gut feeling” concerning an act of terrorism this summer…?! Are there any questions people?

    Intersperced in the above flow chart were countless new Executive Orders and Bushco’s “signing statements” to modify legislation to give the government total and absolute control over American’s “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”…!

    The only right left for America’s “feedlot” citizens is “the right to shop until they drop”…no?!

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. bryan mcclellan

    Well I’ll just get in line to kiss their butts and then roll over and go back to sleep knowing I’m protected by the best legislation that will never be enforced.Anyone remember our southern border fence or country of origin statements on food packaging ?Who is paying for this security? Could it be the countries that flood our markets with cheap inferior products with no regard for US consumer law?Yeah right! Surely they won’t require the corporate borg to ante up,after all we don’t want their profit margin damaged by paying a fair share of the burden to protect us DRONES from the boogie man.It’s five o’clock somewhere in the world,wheres my Heineken ?

  5. gene

    How I have been anxiously awaiting the passage of this “Home land security” bill so I could start feeling safe. The word security implies protection from something and its this something that I differ with. “We the people” need to be protected from this criminal white house and passing another (bill) is laughable. But again, the average citizen doesn’t know/realize what he or she needs to be protected from, ie. government intrussion into our private lives. (911) started the ball rolling, I’m just wondering where it will stop and how bad it will get before it does.

    I wish more individuals would wake up but I want go their.

  6. SEAL

    By paying attention I have observed a steady increase in the credit mechanisims we are offerred via TV adds, direct mail, billboards, and literature posted in any bank I walk into that have one single theme – “spend.” They don’t care what you spend your money on, just SPEND. Recently, there has been a more concerted campaign. That makes me think they are worried and in dire need of more consumer spending to drive the economy.

    If that’s true, we may be in critical mode. Any slow down of consumer spending may instigate the fear that has existed for several years of a serious ressession, even depression. The paradox is that everything they have done since 2000 has injured the consumers ability to spend. They only way the consumer can continue to spend at the necessary level is to go further in debt.

    They’ve become very creative with the methods of providing us new ways to “save” money by spending. Yesterday I received a check from one of the new car lots for $2,800 that I could use [only] to purchase a new car from them. There was an added guarantee of $2000 over full book value for my trade in and no payments til next year. Sounds too good to pass up doesn’t it? I’ll bet a lot of people will go for that just to get out from under their present car payment for a few months.

    But offers like this and the others I see lately tell me they are desperate to fuel the economy. We may be very close to melt down. I suggest everyone hold on to all the cash you can.

  7. Carl Nemo

    Hi SEAL…

    What the world needs is an old fashioned depression, not simply a recession, but a hardcore depression to stick an awl in this inflationary balloon and bring pricing for goods and services back to earth. People need to be humbled to the level where they are focusing on their daily bread; ie., the acquisition of their food, being able to simply pay their mortgage note or rent, utilities etc. The malls need to be vacated and the frivolous business enterprises found in most shut down due to market forces; i.e, “Vacancy…For Rent” signs everywhere in America. The lenders and the debtors need to be thrashing about in the worlds most basic commodity pit of supply vs. demand; ie., a disagreement on value, but an agreement upon price which is the fundamental underpinning of our world of commerce for all time and all places! Rest assured pricing will truly reach sub-basement levels…:))

    Yes it will represent incredible hardship but it will gangster-slap route-step consumers back into some type of fiscal discipline and also flush out the flim-flam politico b.s. artists that have gotten not only America but the world in this mind-boggling financial fix! So I say it’s going to be “assholes, elbows and ricebowls” scrambling for survival, down below soon…! I’m sure you’ll survive SEAL as well as myself, we’re survivors for sure!

    Carl Nemo **==
    p.s. Thanks for your valuable commentary to CHB