Congressional Record: May 16, 2002 (Senate)
Page S4450-S4453                      


  Mr. TORRICELLI. Madam President, on four occasions since September 
11, 2001, I have come to the Chamber to recommend to my colleagues that 
the Senate immediately consider the establishment of a national 
commission concerning the events of September 11, 2001.
  My request has been based on no motivation but the belief that the 
American people deserve honest answers and that the only means of 
preventing another terrorist attack on the United States is a fair, 
honest, and dispassionate view of what happened and what didn't happen, 
what was known, and what should have occurred.
  The historic basis of such an honest approach to the tragedy of New 
York and the Pentagon is overwhelming. Ten days after December 7, 1941, 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized that he could not reassure the 
American people about their Government and could not unify the country 
for the war ahead unless he gave them an explanation about what failed 
at Pearl Harbor. Lyndon Johnson recognized almost immediately the same 
need to reassure the American people about the operations of their 
Government and the integrity of its officers after the assassination of 
President Kennedy in 1963. Ronald Reagan drew upon the same precedent 
establishing the Challenger Commission to assure the American people 
that they would receive an honest answer to prevent any recurrence in 
the loss of life in the Challenger.
  What I recommend has not only had precedents, it was the rule. 
Democratic and Republican administrations, for a century, have seen the 
need to assure the American people about the operation of their 
Government and that indeed we were a confident enough people under the 
rule of law to face honestly our own failings--all based on the belief 
that the only means of assuring that there would not be a recurrence 
would be to discover the reasons for the failings of the past. On those 
four occasions, there have been reasons to postpone, excuses to not 
act, and the debate has continued.
  The debate continued after it was revealed that the FBI had in its 
possession Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent who, in 
August, was discovered in a flight training school. The Justice 
Department denied access to his computer. The debate continued after it 
was learned that French intelligence had warned American intelligence 
officials that they had knowledge of a possible terrorist plot to 
hijack aircraft.
  The debate continued after it was learned that Philippine 
intelligence and law enforcement authorities had warned United States 
Government officials of possible targeting of American aircraft.
  The debate continued after it was revealed that the FBI office in 
Phoenix had written a memorandum warning that large numbers of 
suspicious individuals were seeking pilot and security training at 
American flight schools. The debate continued.
  The debate has to end. Revelations that the Central Intelligence 
Agency might have intercepted suspicious communications as early as 
last July indicating a possible terrorist attack on American 
installations or facilities and that indeed the President of the United 
States himself was informed of this information should effectively end 
any debate.

  I do not rise to cast blame or aspersions on any individuals or 
institutions. I believe the officials of this Government have acted 
honorably, and I would never believe any American institution or 
individual, for a moment, would not have done everything possible to 
defend the people of this country if sufficiently warned.
  Something is wrong. The United States of America has a defense 
establishment of over $330 billion a year. Public accounts estimate 
intelligence budgets at over $30 billion a year. The heart of our 
greatest city was struck, the center of our military power was hit by 
19 people, funded by $250,000. Something is wrong.
  I do not know whether there has been a failure to collect 
intelligence or an inability to share intelligence. I don't know 
whether law enforcement and intelligence agencies have failed to work 
together. I don't know whether they acted properly and a reasoned, 
rational person never could have put these pieces together. I don't 
know. But neither does anybody else in this Government.
  It was always going to be difficult to face the families of those who 
lost their lives on September 11. It just became impossible. Without 
some dispassionate and honest review of what was known by this 
Government and its agencies, without an honest assessment of how 
agencies performed and coordinated their activities, without a 
dispassionate assessment of what failed, not only can we not look the 
victims' families in the eyes and tell them, "Your Government met its 
responsibility," we cannot assure this country that it will not happen 
  Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't have a Pearl Harbor commission, Earl 
Warren didn't have a commission on the Kennedy assassination, and 
Ronald Reagan didn't have a Challenger commission to assign blame. It 
wasn't about partisanship. It was about assuring the American people of 
the future that the Government had taken actions to assure it would 
never happen again.

  Who here would assure one of their constituents in any of our States 
that we have the confidence or the simple good judgment to undertake 
such a review?
  On March 21 of this year, the Governmental Affairs Committee voted on 
S. 1867, introduced by Senators Lieberman, McCain, Grassley, and 
myself, a bill to establish the National Commission on Terrorist 
Attacks upon the United States. That bill is ready for consideration. 
What reason do we offer for not acting immediately? What is the excuse 
to the American people?
  I trust that based on current revelations, law enforcement officials 
of the Justice Department, intelligence officials of the National 
Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, and, indeed, the 
national leadership of

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the White House itself will now end all excuses, stop all efforts to 
block this legislation or similar reviews, and join with us in one 
complete analysis of what happened, what went wrong, what was known, 
and, most importantly, what we do about it.
  There will be those who say this is a matter for the Senate and its 
Intelligence Committee. This is a matter for this Government and all of 
its representatives. Some secret analysis by a committee reviewing one 
aspect of the actions of the U.S. Government on classified material 
making recommendations unto itself is not what the country requires. 
Every element, every aspect of the Government should be reviewed on how 
it acted and how it should be changed, including this Congress.
  I suggest a reserve of analysis of no one and nothing from law 
enforcement, to the national intelligence community, to the executive 
branch, to the operations of this Congress itself. We all share the 
responsibility for the future of the country. We all share the 
responsibility for the security of our communities and our families. An 
honest analysis must involve all of us, including this Congress.
  Madam President, I hope the President of the United States and the 
relevant agencies accept this invitation to work with us. This 
legislation should be offensive to no one and, if successful, provide 
reassurance to everyone. There may be attempts to delay this 
legislation and put this review off for months or years.
  History is a demanding master, and ultimately it governs all of us. 
History will never settle for the excuse that we are not ready or it 
needed more time or it would offend someone. History will demand an 
answer of how the greatest Nation on Earth, with the greatest 
intelligence and military capabilities ever conceived by man, was laid 
vulnerable by a small band of terrorists who brought destruction to our 
greatest city and the very seat of our military authority. History will 
demand it, and we should answer it.
  It is not the responsibility of another generation to revisit this 
matter in 20 years. It is not the responsibility of our successors to 
return to this in another decade. The responsibility for the safety of 
the country and governance of its institutions is ours, and this 
legislation is ours. It should be adopted.
  Madam President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. LIEBERMAN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
order for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LIEBERMAN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that I be 
permitted to speak up to 5 minutes as in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LIEBERMAN. I thank the Chair.
  Madam President, I rise to join with my colleague from New Jersey who 
just addressed the Senate in regard to a proposal that he, Senator 
McCain, Senator Grassley, and I introduced some time ago which would 
create an independent commission to investigate the horrific attacks 
against the United States on September 11, 2001, a day that truly also 
will live in infamy, a day of extraordinary suffering, of heroism, of 
anguish, of insecurity, of ultimately unity and strength for the United 
States of America.
  The idea of this commission which Senator McCain, Senator Torricelli, 
Senator Grassley, and I introduced was to build on the precedents of 
history, particularly the other day of infamy, Pearl Harbor, which was 
followed both by congressional investigations and by an independent 
commission to review what happened and what could have been done, if 
anything, to prevent the attacks from happening, and what did we learn 
from Pearl Harbor and all that surrounded it that would enable us to 
raise our defenses so that nothing such as that would ever happen 
  Sadly, history has turned in a way to put us in a similar position to 
where the previous generation of Americans was at the outset of World 
War II. We were attacked on September 11, 2001, with an inhumane 
brutality and a cunning lack of respect for human life that was 
  The other reality that was unsettling, of course, was that in the 
literal sense, the American government, the great national security 
apparatus that we have established, intelligence, foreign policy, and 
law enforcement, failed to protect the American people from the attacks 
against us on September 11 of last year.
  Perhaps there was nothing more that could have been done to prevent 
them. We understand that in an open society such as ours, a society 
premised on freedom as our highest value, if we are dealing with an 
inhumane enemy, lacking in regard for their own lives, let alone the 
lives of Americans, then there is only so much that can be done to stop 
such attacks.
  Yet we have had the gnawing question: Was there something that could 
have been done to prevent the attacks of September 11? Understanding 
that hindsight is always clearer than foresight, is there something we 
can learn from what happened on September 11 to strengthen ourselves, 
to raise our guard, to do whatever is humanly possible to make sure 
that nothing like those terrorist attacks ever happens again to the 
American people? That was the purpose that my three colleagues and I 
had in introducing this bill to create an independent, nonpolitical 
citizens commission to conduct the broadest possible review of what 
happened on September 11: why did it happen and what can we do to make 
sure it never happens again?
  In the last couple of weeks, there have been a series of revelations, 
beginning with FBI disclosure of warnings, memos last year, in which 
agents of the FBI had reason to be concerned about activity of people 
in this country, particularly at the flight training schools, wondering 
whether that might be related to a potential terrorist attack, linking 
it particularly in some minds to Osama bin Laden, who we knew had 
already struck us in foreign places.
  Add to this now the disclosure that President Bush received, as part 
of a daily intelligence briefing, indication that the Central 
Intelligence Agency had similar words from a different point of view; 
the FBI and CIA apparently never coming together in one place to reach 
the critical mass that would have engendered the kind of action that 
looking back, painfully now, we wish someone had taken.
  The reason why my colleagues and I introduced this bill creating an 
independent commission, it seems to me, is based on the revelations and 
disclosures of the last few weeks and are now even more significant and 
more compelling. Our anxiety about what happened and whether something 
could have been done by people working for the U.S. Government to have 
prevented the horrific acts of September 11, and the suffering that 
resulted therefrom becomes even more gnawing today.
  I note the presence of one of the three cosponsors of this 
legislation, the Senator from Iowa, Mr. Grassley. I indicate to my 
colleagues that I soon intend, I hope with my cosponsors, to find an 
early opportunity to submit our proposal for an independent commission 
to review the events of September 11, and what was learned from them, 
as an amendment to a bill in the Senate. I think the moment is here.
  I received a call about 2 weeks ago from some of the survivors and 
some of the families of victims of September 11 who had heard about the 
commission proposal. They are coming actually the first or second week 
of June--I do not remember the exact date--to lobby Members of the 
Senate and House to adopt such legislation so that the questions that 
gnaw at them because of the losses they have suffered of a spouse, of a 
child, of a relative, a friend, will, to the best of our ability, be 

  This commission proposal, I am pleased to say, received a hearing 
before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. It was reported out 
by the committee. I do think, in light of these events, that the 
greater knowledge we have now of what may have been known before 
September 11, it becomes even more urgent to move forward on it, and it 
is why I hope to soon join with my cosponsors in offering it as an 
amendment to a pending bill.
  I understand, of course, that the Intelligence Committees of the 

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and House are proceeding with investigations related to the attacks of 
September 11. I respect those committees. I support the investigations 
they are conducting. But the idea in the commission proposal we have 
made is broader than that. In the first instance, it is an independent, 
nonpartisan, nonpolitical citizens commission that would conduct this 
investigation and would have the credibility that would go with that.
  Secondly, its purview is beyond intelligence, beyond whatever 
failures may have occurred in the intelligence apparatus in the U.S. 
Government. It will go to law enforcement. It will go to the military. 
It will go to foreign policy. It will go to America's communications 
policy. I think, in that sense, it will supplement and complement the 
critical work the Intelligence Committees are doing.
  Again, I go back to, unfortunately, the comparable event which was 
the attack against Americans at Pearl Harbor. There was not just one 
investigation by one or two committees of Congress; there were 
congressional investigations and there were independent citizen 
commission investigations. That is what I think the events of September 
11, and particularly the disclosures of the last few weeks, cry out for 
today if we are to learn in the fullest sense the lessons of recent 
history and apply them so we can better secure the future of the 
American people.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. KYL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. KYL. Madam President, I would like to respond to some of the 
comments which my colleague, the Senator from Connecticut, just made, 
if he has a moment to remain. I caught some of what he said, and I 
think I caught the gist of what he said.
  I want to be very clear about something. I am a member of the Senate 
Select Committee on Intelligence, and therefore I might be perceived to 
have a bit of a conflict of interest since, as the Senator from 
Connecticut noted, we have an ongoing investigation. The investigation 
has been authorized by the House and Senate committees. We are in the 
middle of that investigation now and plan to have a report ready around 
the end of the year as to the full panoply of circumstances and events 
surrounding the tragedy of September 11, with recommendations for what 
should be done in the future to ensure, to the extent possible, that 
event not be repeated, or that we be able to prevent it if it is at all 
  I am troubled by a couple of the comments the Senator made, and I 
wanted him to hear this and respond, if he would like. Here is what 
troubles me: I was accosted by numerous members of the media this 
morning breathlessly asking me, as a member of the Intelligence 
Committee, what I thought about the fact that the President had been 
briefed that terrorists, al-Qaida terrorists, were going to hijack 
airplanes and didn't this require us to immediately begin some kind of 
investigation, fill in the blanks. Some of them sounded a little bit 
like what the Senator from Connecticut is suggesting.
  That would be the wrong thing to do, in my view, and there are about 
three reasons why.
  First of all, let us be clear: The President was not briefed in some 
emergency situation that he should expect al-Qaida terrorists or any 
other terrorists to hijack an airplane and fly it into the World Trade 
Center. Nothing like that happened. So we should be very careful before 
we begin calling for new mechanisms for investigating the September 11 
events when we already have a good investigation underway based upon 
information such as that. It is incorrect information.
  I know the Senator from Connecticut is a very thoughtful person and 
would never predicate his call for this activity on that kind of 
information. Let me hasten to say I know that is not what he is saying. 
Part of the impetus for that, and I am afraid part of the emotional 
reaction, could be to find a home in a suggestion like this of the 
Senator from Connecticut.
  To clarify the record--I think the administration will clarify it in 
an appropriate way at some time soon--let me put it this way: Every 
morning, the President of the United States receives a briefing from 
the intelligence community. As the President just advised some Members, 
if he had been briefed about a threat that anybody thought was specific 
and credible and we could do anything about, does anybody doubt that he 
wouldn't have reacted in the strongest possible way? I know the Senator 
from Connecticut joins me, and everybody else, in answering that 
question: Of course he would have reacted.
  That should give the first clue about what was actually done. Each 
morning he receives a briefing. It should come as no surprise that 
during one of those briefings when the subject is terrorists, al-Qaida 
was one of the terrorist groups that was mentioned at that time. 
Terrorists have been hijacking airplanes for over 40 years. It is not 
exactly big, breathless news that this could happen, hypothetically. 
That is a far cry from someone suggesting there is credible, specific 
information about a particular threat of hijacking.
  We all need to take a deep breath. I particularly suggest these 
remarks apply to our friends in the media. Calm down a minute. Don't 
jump to any conclusions about what the President was told. Don't take 
from that the intelligence community somehow messed up by not following 
through or taking sufficiently seriously some kind of threat. That is 
not the way it happened.
  The point the Senator from Connecticut makes, with which I totally 
agree, is there is a lot of information out there that we need to put 
together to tell the story about what did happen and determine what 
kinds of changes, if any, we need to make in the future.
  My only concern about his suggestion is two things: One, as the media 
leaks themselves demonstrate, if it comes out in little dribbles and 
drabs of incomplete bits of information, it is likely to be 
counterproductive and to certainly delay the process of putting it all 
together in a coherent way to present a set of facts to the American 
people on which conclusions can be based.
  Since so much of this has to be done in a classified setting, the 
place for it is the Intelligence Committee. It will be difficult to 
even have public hearings to discuss a lot of this while we are right 
in the middle of, one, the war on terror and, two, prosecutions in 
which the FBI is engaged.
  Second, it is important the investigation already underway, which is 
already putting demands on the time of the Justice Department and the 
CIA, not be further complicated by other investigations which would put 
further demands upon these peoples' time at the very time they are 
preparing for these prosecutions and conducting the war on terror.
  Those are thoughts I have with respect to the Senator's suggestion. I 
will appreciate the opportunity to visit with him more about them. I 
wanted the opportunity to express those concerns.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. LIEBERMAN. I thank the Chair. Of course, I thank my dear friend 
and colleague from Arizona. Let me respond briefly to his thoughtful 
and thoroughly appropriate comments.
  First, to restate: the proposal I am talking about for an independent 
commission was made some time ago. We held a hearing on it in the 
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and it has been reported out and 
essentially is ready for action by the Senate.
  We have said all along we respect and support the work the 
Intelligence Committees are doing. As in previous cases, such as Pearl 
Harbor, post-Pearl Harbor, the country would benefit from an 
independent citizen commission inquiry--not accusatory but 
investigatory--which would have the power to obtain information which 
would have the authority to go into classified, secret session because 
of the matters being considered. This would likely extend beyond the 
intelligence function to law enforcement, to foreign policy, to 
military policy, to immigration policy--anything that might have 

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and contributed to the attack of September 11.
  My point today is that the leaks, the disclosures of the last couple 
of weeks, both from the FBI and now the indication of the CIA briefing 
to the President, just reinforces within me the fact that we need such 
an independent commission. In fact, in some ways it may argue even in a 
different more forceful sense for such a commission. If we don't have a 
comprehensive, public, official investigation, I fear leaks related to 
September 11 and the tragedy that occurred will continue for months, 
for years. We ought to try as best we can through the intelligence 
committee investigations and through such an independent commission to 
answer all the questions that can possibly be answered.
  That is what I intend, I believe, with my colleagues: To offer this 
as an amendment at an early time.
  I respond to the points the Senator from Arizona makes about the most 
recent disclosures on briefing to the President. They are quite on 
point. It is very important not to overreact to them. For the record, I 
have not in this case received any of the classified briefings. I speak 
based on publicly available sources in the media. Those are the reports 
of the various FBI memos that went into Washington and now this report 
of the CIA briefing of the President.
  What truly troubles me and gnaws at me is not the President's 
behavior because, of course, if he had any indication in the briefing 
that an attack was imminent, he would have acted as Commander in Chief. 
My concern is about the quality of the information working its way up 
to the President as Commander in Chief.
  More particularly, was there any point of connection between what we 
now know are the FBI memo's concerns about Moussoui's conduct in 
Minnesota at the flight school, the agent in Phoenix who had broader 
concerns, very acute, and unfortunately turns out to be right to the 
point, did those intersect on anyone's desk with the information that 
the CIA had which was the basis of a longer briefing to the President 
last summer in a way that would have led anyone to reach a more 
specific conclusion that they could have taken to the President?
  I agree, there ought not be an overreaction. My reaction is, as I 
stated, as to whether all the systems underneath the President, as 
Commander in Chief, worked together as we would want them to, to be 
able to alert him to what was about to happen. And in a more direct 
sense, was this in any measure preventable?
  I even ask the question with a sense of humility because I know the 
difficulty in an investigation of this kind. It is that which motivates 
me, and I am sure would motivate a commission and Intelligence 
Committees more than any second-guessing on the President's behavior.
  I know we have used our time. I thank my colleague. I look forward to 
talking to him off the floor, and I yield the floor.