WASHINGTON – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said the Senate’s overwhelming vote Tuesday in favor of a blue-ribbon September 11th commission paves the way for eventual passage of the measure by both houses of Congress.
In a 90-8 vote, the Senate agreed to amend Lieberman’s homeland security bill with a proposal to establish a 10-member commission that would look broadly into the circumstances surrounding last year’s terrorist attacks. The amendment tracked legislation (S.1867) introduced in December 2001 by Lieberman and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz.
“The Senate’s strong vote today bodes well for eventual creation of this commission,” Lieberman said. “When a new Department of Homeland Security gets up and running, we owe it to the families of September 11th victims, and to the country we’re striving to secure, to give as complete and independent an assessment as possible of what went wrong before September 11th and why. “If we don’t come to terms with the whole truth by looking back at what happened,” he added, “we can never move forward with the knowledge and confidence we need to set things right.”
The amendment calls for the establishment of a National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to make a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks. The commission could examine subjects ranging from intelligence failures to the flow of money to terrorist networks, law enforcement, diplomacy, immigration and border control, commercial aviation.
The White House had opposed creation of an independent commission until last week. The House has already approved legislation to establish a commission, although it differs from the Senate bill.
“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 findings.”
Under the legislation, the commission will report to the President and Congress on its findings and recommendations for corrective measures. Members of the commission will be appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. They will be prominent U.S. citizens with national recognition and significant experience in a variety of professions. None will be current office-holders.
Lieberman cited a number of blue-ribbon commissions that have contributed to the nation’s understanding of significant national security questions. They include commissions established after Pearl Harbor , the death of President John F. Kennedy, the Challenger explosion,and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie , Scotland . In addition, investigative panels were convened after devastating terrorist attacks against the Marine barracks in Beirut ; Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia ; U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania ; and the USS Cole.