Lieberman Calls for Implementation of 9/11 Commission Recommendations

Following is the text of Senator Lieberman’s opening statement for the July 30, 2004 Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing on the 9/11 Commission Report:

Good morning. I want to thank Chairman Collins for convening this rare summer recess hearing. Our leadership – Senators Frist and Daschle – have charged this Committee with the responsibility of examining the reorganization issues recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks in the wake of the attacks of September 11. We accept this responsibility with a sense of urgency the Commission recommends and the American people expect. Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, reflecting on all the witness interviews that led the Commission to conclude that intelligence changes were urgently needed, has said: “A critical theme that emerged throughout our inquiry was the difficulty of answering the question: Who is in charge? Who ensures that agencies pool resources, avoid duplication and plan jointly? Who oversees the massive integration and unity of effort to keep America safe? Too often, the answer is no one.” That status quo failed us on Sept. 11, 2001. And it will fail us again unless we begin to work now to institute the reforms the 9-11 Commission has recommended. I want to thank both Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Hamilton for your remarkable leadership. The Commission has exceeded the hopes Senator McCain and I had for it when we pushed for its creation in the months after September the 11th. Thomas Jefferson once said: “Citizens who love their country on its own account – and not merely for its trappings of interest or power – can never refuse to come forward when they find that the nation is engaged in dangers which they have the means of warding off.” Your nation – our nation – was in danger. And while we are safer than we were on 9-11, we are still not safe, as your report documents. You and your fellow commissioners put your private lives aside and stepped forward to document for the nation the story of September 11th and the bold actions needed to confront and defeat the continuing danger of terrorism. I know it was nearly two years of difficult, painstaking work for all of the Commission members and staff. And we are grateful – and proud – that in these fractious times, your Commission was able to carry out its work in a bipartisan fashion and produce this unanimous report. You have created the best model for Congress as we begin our work. Our thanks also go to the families of the victims of 9-11 who have played such a steadfast role in demanding answers to the difficult questions surrounding the attack so lives could be saved in the future. The only answer they would not accept was: “No.” As in: “There will be no commission.” Jefferson would be proud that our nation still produces such citizens. Citizens like Tom Kean, Lee Hamilton and the families of the victims of 9-11. I have long believed that if we as a nation are ever going to make sense of what happened on 9-11, we needed to look back honestly. Not with rancor. Not with rumor. Not with fear. But with clear eyes and honest hearts. Your extraordinary work enables us to do just that. You answer better than anyone has the two questions we all wanted answered. How could the 9-11 attacks have happened? And how can we prevent anything like 9-11 from happening again. This 587-page report does not close the book on 9-11. Rather it opens a new chapter for Congress and the White House to write as we fulfill our responsibilities to create the 21st Century intelligence and homeland defense systems your report calls for. In this mission, we should all feel the same sense of urgency the commissioners have expressed. Chairman Kean has said: “This system is not fixed. Our biggest weapon of defense is our intelligence system. If that doesn’t work, our chances of being attacked are so much greater. So our major recommendation is to fix that intelligence system and do it as fast as possible.” That is why we are holding these hearings today. Our staffs will be working this summer to have legislation ready for the Senate’s consideration by the end of September. When the Senate returns on September 7th – just days before the 3rd anniversary of the 9-11 – we will be well on our way. Many other Congressional committee hearings will follow. Today this Committee will focus mostly on the Commission’s recommendations for the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center, a National Intelligence Director and related issues like information sharing. As always, history can inform our work. In 1924, General Billy Mitchell predicted that a war with the Japan was coming and that it would begin with an attack on Pearl Harbor. He even predicted the time of day that attack would occur. Then came December 7, 1941. Sadly, we also had warnings in the years before 9-11 of the mounting terrorist threat and gaps in our government’s intelligence preparedness. Then came September the 11th, 2001. And again, we were unprepared.We cannot let another attack succeed because of our own inaction. Your Commission’s recommendations offer us a chance to seize control of our future and defend America. We must act now and not put this over to the next Congress. Jefferson once warned that: “Lethargy is the forerunner of death to the public liberty.” In the case of terrorism – lethargy can also be the forerunner to the death of thousands of innocent Americans. That’s why we must not go slow or protect the status quo. Knowing that all of you – Gov. Kean, Congressman Hamilton and the families – will be looking over our shoulders makes me confident of success. It is time to act to fulfill our Constitutional responsibilities in an age of terrorism to provide for the common defense and insure domestic tranquility. Thank you Madam Chairman.