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SPY AGENCY REFORM DELAY IRKS KIN OF 9/11 VICTIMS

The effort to reform the nation's intelligence-gathering system has stalled at least until after Tuesday's election and family members of Sept. 11 victims fear the legislation is dead and can't be revived.

"If ever there was a chance it was going to get done, it would have been before the election," said Kathleen Lynch of Amherst, who lost her brother, New York City Firefighter Michael Lynch, in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Lynch has lobbied members of Congress to pass the intelligence reform bill, which the 9/1 1 commission recommended.

Beverly Eckert, widow of Canisius High School graduate Sean P. Rooney, has traveled to Washington from her home in Connecticut almost weekly this fall to keep the pressure on Congress.

Both expressed deep disappointment Thursday over House and Senate negotiations that appear to be at an impasse.

"I think it's a betrayal of everyone who died on Sept. 11, and a betrayal of everyone who will die in the next terrorist attack," said Eckert, whose husband died in the World Trade Center attacks.

A House-Senate conference committee is trying to resolve differences between the 500-page bills that each chamber passed.

The key conflict appears to be over control of intelligence spending. The House version gives the Department of Defense more authority over intelligence funding, while the Senate would give more budget power to the new national intelligence director.

Sept. 11 family members blamed the stalemate on President Bush, saying he hasn't pushed Congress hard enough to get the bill passed. "His rhetoric of being tough on terror means nothing," Lynch said.

Eckert agreed, terming Bush's stance "a facade, a charade, a farce." She said that in a meeting she had at the White House last week, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales indicated there was no urgency in getting the intelligence reform bill passed.

In response, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius noted that the White House sent House and Senate negotiators a 10-page letter last week spelling out the kind of bill Bush would like to see.

"The president has consistently called on Congress to act as soon as possible," Lisaius said.

Eckert said she was also upset at House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who told her earlier this month that he would make sure the bill was completed by election time. John Feehery, a spokesman for Hastert, said Senate negotiators were refusing to compromise with the House on the bill.

"The speaker wants to get it done," Feehery said. "He thought he'd get it done."

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com.

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