Lieberman Seeks Funds To Keep 9-11 Commision

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., co-author with Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., of legislation to create a special independent commission to investigate the causes surrounding the September 11th terrorist attacks, is seeking additional funding to keep the commission in operation long enough for it to complete its job.

In letters to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee dated March 27, 2003, Lieberman and seven co-signers are asking that the FY 2003 supplemental appropriations bill include $11 million for the commission to complete its investigation and report back to Congress by the end of June 2004. The bipartisan commission’s 10 members unanimously requested $11 million to supplement the $3 million authorized by Congress last year. Commission Chair Thomas Kean and Co-Chair Lee Hamilton have said their $3 million budget will only carry them through August 2003, preventing them from completing the work required by Congress.

“If this is the price to pay for the truth about the worst terrorist attack in American history, then we must meet it,” Lieberman said. “The commission should have whatever resources it needs to conduct a thorough investigation that will help us learn from our failures and close the gaping holes that remain in our domestic defenses.”  

Co-signers to the letter include Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Senators Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., John Corzine, D-N.J., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Bob Graham, D-Fla.

Following is a copy of the letter:

March 27, 2003

The Honorable Ted Stevens Chairman

Senate Committee on Appropriations

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Stevens:

We are writing to ask that you and your colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee provide needed additional funding to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The Commission was authorized in Title VI of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (P.L 107-306) which was enacted on November 27, 2002; earlier, the Senate had voted overwhelmingly to establish the Commission (September 24, 2002, approved 90-8 as an amendment to H.R. 5005, the Homeland Security Act of 2002).

The legislation enacted last November established an independent, bipartisan commission with broad discretion to investigate the facts and circumstances of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and report on its findings. Congress directed the Commission to investigate issues relating to intelligence agencies; law enforcement agencies; diplomacy; immigration, non- immigrant visas, and border control; the flow of assets to terrorist organizations; commercial aviation; the role of Congressional oversight and resource allocation; and other relevant areas of the public and private sectors. After evaluating the lessons learned from the terrorist attacks, the Commission will report to the President, Congress, and the public on its conclusions and its recommendations as to how our defenses against future terrorist attacks can be enhanced.

Despite this broad mandate, the Commission was given only 18 months from the date of the law’s enactment to complete its work. After some early delays caused by the resignations of the original Chairman and Vice-chairman, the Commission has now made great progress in building from scratch a seasoned staff, finding appropriately secure office space, and developing a work plan. The Commissioners have determined, however, that the three million dollars allocated to it will not allow it to conduct the thorough investigation Congress intended.

The Commissioners have requested unanimously an additional $11 million to complete their work. As Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton observed, There currently exists no authoritative account of the attacks on America, one that can sort out the many controversies surrounding almost every aspect of these events, looking backward in order to look forward. In our lifetime there may not be another such opportunity to provide this service to the nation with the statutory powers that have been granted by Congress and the President. Their letter explaining the need for additional funds is enclosed. We ask you to include $11 million for the Commission in the Appropriation Committee’s mark of the FY ’03 Supplemental Appropriations legislation. Inquiries were immediately launched into Al Qaeda terrorist attacks against the U.S.S. Cole and our embassies in Africa, and a Presidentially-appointed commission investigated the downing of a Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Those inquiries made valuable recommendations concerning how Americans can be better protected against international terrorism.

The Senate and House Intelligence Committees conducted a joint inquiry into the events surrounding the terrorist attacks related to U.S. intelligence agencies. Their Joint Inquiry produced important recommendations but it was limited in scope. The most devastating terrorist attack in our history requires a complete and thorough investigation. The American people deserve answers, and we hope you will provide the funds the Commission needs in order to ensure its inquiry can be completed. We appreciate your attention to this issue. With our thanks and warmest regards,


Joseph I. Lieberman

John McCain