Lieberman Sets Future Priorities for Homeland Security

Senator Joe Lieberman, D.-Conn., and September 11th reform advocate Mary Fetchet addressed students Friday at Fairfield University on the unfinished business of the 9/11 commission and the future of fighting terrorism and securing the American people here at home.

While noting significant progress in securing the homeland since the September 11th attacks, Senator Lieberman said he was “not yet satisfied that we have made Connecticut safe enough from those who would gladly give their own lives to kill innocent people here.”

Fetchet’s son Bradley was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Senator Lieberman thanked her for her dedicated efforts as Founding Director of Voices of September 11 and for her instrumental help in the creation of the 9/11 Commission and enactment of the Commission’s recommendations.

Fetchet said: “The fifth year anniversary has heightened everyone’s focus on evaluating how safe we truly are five years after 9/11. I commend Senator Lieberman for his ongoing commitment to work in a bi-partisan manner for necessary government reform. Although we have made some progress, Democrats and Republicans alike, on all levels of government, must demonstrate a sense of urgency by fully implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations. In memory of my son and all those who perished on 9/11 I have made a personal commitment to educating the general public about these important reforms and Voices of September 11th will support that effort.”

Lieberman praised Senate passage Thursday of the Port Security Improvement Act of 2006, which he co-sponsored, as an important step toward closing one of our most significant remaining security gaps, but stressed other areas that remain vulnerable.

“In the five years since September 11, 2001, we have made real progress in strengthening our homeland security, and I am privileged to have had a role in bringing about that progress,” he said. “But I am not yet satisfied. We have brought many members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to justice, but Osama bin Laden is still free and fomenting hatred against the United States. We have formed important strategic alliances to fight terror, but this Administration has alienated many potential friends who could help in this fight against our common enemy. We came together to create the Department of Homeland Security and passed other measures to strengthen our preparedness, but we remain too divided as a nation and spend too much time fighting each other in Congress rather than uniting to make progress for America.”

Lieberman specifically discussed the need for better chemical, port, and rail and transit security; adequate funding for first responders; for intelligence and law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to share information more readily; and the need to reach out to the Muslim world through scholarship, exchange, and free media programs.

“Our intelligence agencies, the FBI and DHS must work cooperatively and share information among themselves and state and local officials as needed. And they’re not doing as well as they should,” he said. “Our national anti-terror efforts must reach right down into our hometowns because it is our police, firefighters and other rescue workers who are on the front lines…. We need to make it a national priority that the men and women of our local police and fire departments have the kind of equipment and training they need. And that must include communications gear that both allows emergency workers to talk to each other in a crisis – but survive and function after a disaster. And that means increasing federal aid…

“Let us remember that we share a common purpose and that we serve this purpose best when we bring our disagreements to the table and try to work them out. That’s what Mary Fetchet and I did to help convince a reluctant Congress and White House to support the 9-11 Commission, and pass its transformational proposals…

“I intend to keep working every day to make sure America’s government fulfills its first responsibility to provide for the common defense, and secure the lives of the American people, so that we may enjoy the liberties that are our birthright.”

For more on Senator Lieberman’s homeland security accomplishments and on his goals for the future protection of America, see the documents below.