September 11 Commission Clears Committee, Heads to Full Senate

WASHINGTON – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., commended committee members Thursday for unanimously reporting legislation to establish a commission to study the circumstances surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The legislation, (S.1867), co-authored by Lieberman and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and amended by Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., would establish a National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to examine the facts and causes relating to the attacks, to make a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, and to report on the extent of the United States’ preparedness for the attacks.

“The overriding purpose of this inquiry must be a learning exercise,” Lieberman said, “to understand what happened without political interference or preconceptions about the ultimate finding.”

Under the legislation, the commission will report to the President and Congress on its findings and recommendations for corrective measures. The members of the commission will be appointed by the leaders of the Senate and House, and by the President, although none may be current office holders. The President will appoint the Chairman. Commission members will be prominent U.S. citizens with national recognition and significant experience in a variety of professions.

“After the infamous attacks of September 11, the American people have been asking questions: Why was this plan so successful in achieving its evil goals? Were opportunities missed to prevent the destruction? What additional steps should be taken now to prevent any future attacks?” Lieberman said. “The American people deserve answers to these very legitimate questions. Just as importantly, if we can learn lessons from this tragedy, lessons that will protect our citizens, then the horrific losses Americans suffered will not have been entirely in vain.”

Lieberman cited a number of blue-ribbon commissions that have contributed to the nation’s understanding of significant national security questions. They include the Hart Rudman Commission, which predicted that weapons of mass destruction or mass disruption would be used on United States soil, and the Rumsfeld Commission, which shaped the views of policymakers on the threat posed by ballistic missiles in the hands of other countries.

Commission members will decide which issues to investigate. Possible areas of inquiry spelled out in the bill include intelligence, law enforcement, border control, and commercial aviation.