On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Senate Homeland Security Committee today held a hearing to examine current and potential future terrorist threats to our homeland.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said it is appropriate that the hearing was held on “the eve of this somber day of remembrance” because “if there is one thing we fully understand about September 11th, is that the horror of that day was made possible by what has been called September 10th thinking.”
Today’s hearing examined the efforts of key intelligence agencies in preventing a terrorist attack on the United States since 9-11-01. Those who testified include Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff; Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence; John Scott Redd, Director, National Counterterrorism Center, Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI. Each testified that U.S. intelligence agencies are better at collecting and sharing information than they were six years ago.
Senator Collins, who coauthored the 2004 Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, said her concern is that our nation’s response to the 9/11 attacks may be in danger of flagging.
“If we allow ourselves to become complacent, to revert to “September 10th thinking,” the next attack will be due not to a failure of imagination, but a failure of resolve,” she said.
Secretary Chertoff said that the 9/11 anniversary is an appropriate time to assess the current terrorist threat facing our country and to set priorities for the future. He said that it is “no accident” that we have not suffered a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 and that our nation has put in place critical tools that have strengthened our ability to identify terrorist threats to our homeland and to dismantle terrorist cells and disrupt terror plots.
Senator Collins discussed her committee’s recent investigations into an emerging threat—homegrown terrorism. “The NIE assessment is that the growing number of radical, self-generating terror cells in Western countries indicates that the radical and violent segment of the West’s population is expanding,” she said. “In our own country, the Torrance, California, case and the Fort Dix and JFK airport plots all illustrate that we are not immune to domestic terror cells. These homegrown terrorists – inspired by al Qaeda’s hate-filled perversion of the Muslim faith – will challenge the ability of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to respond effectively.”
Senator Collins also asked Secretary Chertoff what is being done by DHS to improve the detection of bombs and IEDs, both of which are viewed as a particularly serious threat. Chertoff said that the Department has made improvements in the areas of prevention and detection, including the ability to detect liquid explosives.