WASHINGTON – In the tenth year since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday launched a multi-hearing review of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts over the past decade in order to build upon reforms that have worked and to improve those that haven’t.
The inaugural hearing, entitled “Ten Years After 9/11: A Report from the 9/11 Commission Chairmen,” presented an overview of the gains that have been made to protect the American people from terrorist attacks and the work that remains before the 9/11 Commission recommendations of 2004 have been fulfilled.
“Since the 9/11 Commission reforms were adopted, we have had many successes in our battles with terrorists, many plots broken, and planned attacks thwarted,” said Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn. “And we’ve also had some tragic failures. We must continue to learn from our successes and our failures so we are not just reacting to the last attack or attempted attack but are taking the fight to our enemies.”
Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., said: “Undoubtedly, compared to where we were on 9/10/2001, we have greatly improved the framework for information sharing among our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. But sometimes it has been an inept bombmaker or a faulty fuse that has spared American lives.
“There have been untold successes. In many cases, the intelligence community and law enforcement have quietly connected the dots and thwarted plots. In other cases, alert citizens reported suspicious behavior to authorities.”
Lieberman and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., co-authored the legislation to create the 9/11 Commission. After the Commission released its seminal report and recommendations in 2004, Lieberman and Collins worked to implement them in intelligence reform legislation enacted by Congress later that year and in additional legislation passed in 2007. These two bills implemented most of the Commission’s recommendations.
But Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, former co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, testified Wednesday that, despite significant progress, several key recommendations remain unfulfilled. Among them are the central question of determining who at the federal level is ultimately in charge of preventing a terrorist attack; providing interoperable communications capability to first responders across geopgraphical and agency lines; and streamlining Congressional oversight of homeland security.
The 2004 intelligence reform legislation created the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), whose job is to bring unity and coordination to the efforts of 16 different federal intelligence agencies. Additional legislation may be needed to strengthen the authority of the DNI, the witnesses indicated. However they also said it’s up to the President to make it clear that the DNI is “in charge.”
Lieberman and McCain are working on legislation to provide the so-called D-Block of broadband spectrum to first responders. And the Senators and witnesses agreed that streamlining Congressional oversight of homeland security required the involvement of the Senate and House leaders.
Attending the hearing were 9/11 family members who were essential to passing the 9/11 related legislation: Mary Fetchet, whose son Brad died at the World Trade Center; Carie Lemack, whose mother Judy was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center; and Abraham Scott, whose wife Janice was killed in the Pentagon.