WASHINGTON – On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Monday heard from an array of top U.S. intelligence chiefs about the terrorist threats still facing the homeland. At a hearing entitled, “Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years After 9/11,” FBI Director Robert Mueller, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, and National Counterterrorism Center Director John Scott Redd testified about the evolving nature of the U.S. intelligence community in response to the 9/11 attacks.
“While the core of the 9/11/01 al-Qaeda is weaker and no longer operates under the cover of the Taliban government of Afghanistan – and its forces in Iraq are now on the run – its leadership has regenerated itself and its hateful ideology is metastasizing across the internet,” said Lieberman. “Bin Laden’s tape is another shot across our bow. It is the sound of another alarm which calls us to alertness and duty and tells us that bin Laden and his ilk are out there, and so long as they are, the life of every American is endangered.”
“It is appropriate that we are holding this hearing today, the eve of this somber day of remembrance,” Senator Collins said. “If there is one thing we fully understand about September 11th, it is that the horror of that day was made possible by what has been called September 10th thinking. What the 9/11 Commission so memorably termed a ‘failure of imagination,’ was exploited by our enemies with devastating effectiveness. If we allow ourselves to become complacent and revert to ‘September 10th thinking,’ the next attack will be due not to a failure of imagination but a failure of resolve.”
The witnesses each stated that the homeland is safer than it was before the 9/11 attacks, although they each conceded that much work remains to be done. Director McConnell admitted that the process of institutional reform and cultural change in the intelligence community is incomplete. Witnesses also addressed the fact that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has not been captured, noting that in the last year the leadership of al-Qaeda has regained a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed several pieces of legislation over the past six years to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks. In 2004, landmark intelligence reform legislation was created to help streamline our nation’s intelligence community, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission. In 2007, the committee implemented most of the remaining recommendations from the 9/11 Commission with H.R. 1, “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” which was signed into law on August 3, 2007. The Homeland Security Act, which created the Department of Homeland Security originated in the committee in 2001. And Senators Lieberman and John McCain, R-Ariz., co-authored the legislation that created the 9/11 commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 attacks and recommend solutions to prevent a similar attack from happening again.
“When we created DHS, the DNI, and the NCTC, and transformed the FBI, we never intended them to be static positions or organizations,” Lieberman said. “We wanted them to be not just strong and capable, but agile, flexible, and fast-moving in their efforts to protect America from terrorism. We are still in the early days of what will be a long struggle against Islamist extremists and it is critical that we are persistent and united in confronting the challenges ahead.”