WASHINGTON – Before a Congressional subcommittee Tuesday, Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., pressed for a new homeland security department to help prevent future terrorist attacks. Later in the day, he attended a rally and met with families of September 11 victims in an effort to generate momentum for an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks last fall.
Lieberman has been developing bipartisan legislation to establish a new Department of Homeland Security since last fall. His proposal, introduced with Senators Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Bob Graham, D-Fla., also calls for the establishment of a Senate-confirmed, statutory White House Director for Combating Terrorism to coordinate anti-terrorist activities government-wide. The proposal was passed out of the Governmental Affairs Committee, which Lieberman chairs, in May.
Lieberman and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., also introduced legislation to establish an independent commission to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the September 11 attacks. The commission would look at, among other things, issues involving intelligence failures, diplomacy, immigration, border control, law enforcement, and commercial aviation. The bill passed out of the Government Affairs Committee in March.
?I for one do not accept as inevitable that there will be another September 11th type attack,? Lieberman said at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform?s Subcommittee on National Security. ?I think we have it within our capacity – if we organize ourselves to prevent such attacks from occurring again – for that to be our goal.?
Later, at a rally organized by family members of September 11 victims to generate support for Lieberman?s commission bill, the Senator said the suffering of the victims? families was ?beyond the ability of most of us to comprehend.?
But, he added, ?we can help give you some peace of mind by answering many of the gnawing questions about the government failures preceding the attacks… The proceedings would be serious and sober. By its very nature, the commission would not feed – but would help reduce – the appetite for the steady diet of speculation, accusation, and anxiety we?ve now grown so accustomed to over the past month.
?To those detractors who say that a commission would distract us from the war on terrorism that must remain our number one focus, I respectfully say that?s exactly the opposite of what it would do. An independent commission would not drain a drop of time or talent from that fight, and would produce an invaluable document for all those who seek to build a safer nation.
?I?m pleased that last week, President Bush announced his proposal to create a new, unified homeland security department – drawing heavily on the legislation that Senator Specter and I introduced last October. Now, I hope that the Administration will have a similar evolution of mind and heart on the need to have a thorough, credible and independent analysis of how the attacks against our country happened. And this commission would find out just where our government went wrong so that in the future we can do right by the American people.?