Congressional Record: February 2, 2004 (Senate)
Page S371-S376                      


      By Mr. DASCHLE (for Mr. Lieberman (for himself, Mr. McCain, Mr. 
        Daschle, Mr. Dorgan, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Corzine, Mr. Graham of 
        Florida, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Dodd, Ms. Collins, Mr. Lott, Mr. 
        Graham of South Carolina, and Mr. Hagel)):

[[Page S372]]

  S. 2040. A bill to extend the date for the submittal of the final 
report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United 
States, to provide additional funding for the Commission, and for other 
purposes; to the Select Committee on Intelligence.
  (At the request of Mr. Daschle, the following statement was ordered 
to be printed in the Record.)
  Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, today Senator McCain and I are 
introducing legislation to extend the life of the National Commission 
on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States so that it can complete its 
critically important investigation into the causes of the September 
11th terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 
innocent people.
  Under legislation Senator McCain and I authored in December 2001 to 
create the Commission, its final report was to have been completed by 
May 27, 2004. The Commission itself has asked for more time. So we are 
now proposing to extend that deadline until January 10, 2005 and to 
provide an additional $6 million for the Commission to complete its 
work. Senator McCain and I are grateful to the Minority Leader, Senator 
Daschle, for joining us in this effort. We are also happy to have the 
support of Senators Dorgan, Lautenberg, Corzine, Graham, Durbin, and 
Dodd. In the House, Representatives Fossella, Shays, Hinchey and 
Emanuel are expected to introduce companion legislation this week, and 
we welcome their support as well.
  We want the Commission's final report to be as searching and complete 
as possible. We owe that to the memories of the 3,000 victims and their 
families. And we owe it to the Nation as a whole. In fact, our future 
security depends upon it.
  George Washington once said we should look back ``to derive useful 
lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear-
bought experience.'' That is the precise mission of this Commission to 
better understand what went wrong so we can prevent such a catastrophic 
attack from ever happening again. The Commission simply needs more time 
to do that.
  From the beginning, Senator McCain and I have been motivated by the 
experience of the families of victims of September 11. Above and beyond 
the grief of their losses, they have endured terrible pain in not 
knowing the whole account of how something so horrific could have 
happened to them and those they loved. It was a tribute to the power of 
the families' message that our legislation creating the Commission 
passed the Senate on September 24, 2002, by a resounding vote of 90-8. 
And it is a tribute to the enduring power of their message that Senator 
McCain and I are seeking this extension.
  Last week, the Commission asked Congress for at least an additional 
60 days to finalize its interviews, hearings, and report. The families, 
however, expressed concern that two months may be an inadequate amount 
of time to accomplish all that must be done. They have called for a 
seven-and-a-half month extension so the Commission can conduct all the 
public hearings it had originally intended to hold, so that it can 
conduct thorough reviews of the President's daily intelligence 
briefings--a process barely underway--and so that it has the time to 
deal with the Administration's anticipated objections to declassifying 
material in the final report. Indeed, the Commissioners I asked have 
confirmed that they can benefit from more than the minimum two months 
  I have therefore been convinced by the families and the Commissioners 
that the extra time is necessary. But I would also warn the 
Administration that this extension is not an excuse to engage in 
additional dilatory tactics.
  I add this warning because the Bush Administration has a long record 
of opposing this Commission and an equally long record of making its 
work more difficult. Ever since Senator McCain and I first joined 
forces on this issue, we have faced White House intransigence. The 
President opposed the Commission for 10 months until the eve of a 
Senate vote he knew he would lose. During final negotiations over the 
details of the legislation, the White House negotiated to keep the 
Commission's duration as short as possible, rather than give it ample 
time to do a thorough job.
  Once the Commission got underway, the Administration hampered the 
Commission's progress through slow document production and other 
stalling tactics, limiting the Commission's ability to proceed 
expeditiously with its investigation. Even now, the Administration is 
refusing to give the full Commission notes, taken by members of the 
Commission, that describe key White House documents. When one considers 
the obstacles generated by the White House, it is not in the least bit 
surprising that the Commission now needs additional time to finish the 
  I would note, however, that this extension does not preclude the 
Commission from releasing interim reports, as the original legislation 
establishing the Commission allows. Furthermore, the Commission is free 
to release its final report before the deadline, if it has completed 
its work. The Commission's hearings, questioning of witnesses, factual 
findings, and staff report issued last week proved exceptionally 
valuable in shedding light on some of the causes of the terrorist 
attacks. Future hearings and staff reports, no doubt, will continue to 
provide important new information about weaknesses in our defenses 
against terrorism.
  Therefore, we encourage the Commission to continue to release its 
findings and recommendations as they become available, so that we can 
learn from the mistakes of our past as quickly as possible, and work 
harder to shore up existing vulnerabilities. Congress and the relevant 
federal agencies have a duty to develop new strategies and capabilities 
to deter and prevent future terrorist attacks, and expeditious 
reporting by the Commission will help enormously.
  Major systemic problems have already surfaced, for example, that can 
point us in the right direction, or maybe even an entirely new 
direction, to address an array of vulnerabilities, particularly in our 
law enforcement and intelligence communities. Allow me to cite just a 
few examples from the Commission's work thus far to illustrate how many 
hands we will need, laboring in unison, to patch the breaches that 
remain in America's domestic security:
  1. An immigration official at Orlando International Airport, Mr. 
Melendez-Perez, testified that on August 4, 2001, he turned away and 
sent home a suspicious, unresponsive, and belligerent Saudi national 
holding a one-way ticket with no departure plans and insufficient funds 
to stay in the U.S. and purchase a ticket home. This individual claimed 
that he was to meet a friend at the airport but would not name the 
friend. It turned out that one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta, was 
at the airport on that day. Amazingly, neither the FBI nor anyone else 
from the intelligence community has ever debriefed Mr. Melendez-Perez, 
even though the immigration inspector informed the FBI of the incident 
immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  2. The excellent performance of Mr. Melendez-Perez demonstrated that 
a vigilant and well-trained officer can spot suspicious behavior in the 
course of a routine interview. But the Commission's hearings and 
reports also revealed how infrequently that occurs. Government 
officials admitted in public testimony that consular employees are not 
expected to screen for possible terrorists during interviews of visa 
applicants, nor are they trained to do so. The Commission discovered 
that many of the hijackers had passports that were fraudulently altered 
or had other suspicious indicators, but between 1992 and September 11, 
2001, the federal government had not attempted to disseminate, to 
border security or other relevant employees, available information 
about the travel and passport practices of Al Qaeda or other terrorist 
groups. All of the hijackers' visa applications were incomplete, and 
several contained false statements that were easily identifiable. The 
hijackers entered the United States, often more than once, without 
incident, despite the fact that several of them had violated 
immigration law. Hijackers referred to secondary inspections for more 
detailed scrutiny were nevertheless admitted.
  3. New information has been revealed about the abundant knowledge the 
intelligence community had about three of the 19 hijackers, who held a 
strategy session in Malaysia and were extensively tracked by U.S. and 
foreign intelligence services. The story fleshed

[[Page S373]]

out by the Commission underscores the fact that not only did the 
government fail to share information that might have kept the 
terrorists out of the country, but they also failed to share 
information that might have exposed the terrorists' September 11th 
plot. That is why I have focused personal attention on the Terrorist 
Threat Integration Center and the Directorate for Information Analysis 
and Infrastructure Protection at DHS to make sure that these new 
centers are receiving all intelligence information, mixing it together 
with skilled and intense analysis, and warning the relevant state, 
local, and federal officials of emerging terrorist plots.
  4. All the evidence that consolidated watch lists might have 
prevented entry to some of the terrorists notwithstanding, the watch 
lists still haven't been consolidated despite numerous Administration 
promises to do so. The Commission learned from the Federal Aviation 
Administration that, prior to September 11th, the no-fly list created 
for the airlines had only 12-20 names on it, whereas the terrorist 
watch list at the State Department had tens of thousands of terrorists' 
names. We also learned that the no-fly list and the larger terrorist 
watch list are still not equal in numbers and that there are still 
terrorists on the larger list who might be permitted to fly if they 
evade other detection.
  These disclosures demonstrate the Commission is accomplishing its 
assignment, and so it must be allowed to complete its investigation. I 
am certain the Commission will use the extra months wisely to complete 
a thorough investigation, continue its public hearings, interview all 
relevant government officials and complete a comprehensive final report 
for release as soon as possible.
  It is a basic American principle that we must learn from the past in 
order to secure a better future. Our ability to counter, prevent, and 
defend against the next terrorist attack on our homeland depends in no 
small part on the Commission's ability to bring satisfactory closure to 
its work. If we only give the Commission the time, resources, and 
cooperation it deserves, the Commission's full, fair, and unflinching 
assessment of what went wrong will be of immediate value to our 
national security. And it will be of lasting value to the American 
people, who will finally discover the unvarnished truth.
  I urge the Senate to approve this legislation in a timely manner so 
that the victims' families and the rest of America may have some 
measure of peace.
  I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the 
  There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                S. 2040

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       (a) Extension.--Section 610(b) of the Intelligence 
     Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-306; 6 
     U.S.C. 101 note; 116 Stat. 2413) is amended by striking ``18 
     months after the date of the enactment of this Act'' and 
     inserting ``January 10, 2005''.
       (b) Additional Funding.--Section 611 of that Act (6 U.S.C. 
     101 note; 116 Stat. 2413) is amended--
       (1) by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c);
       (2) by inserting after subsection (a) the following new 
     subsection (b):
       ``(b) Additional Funding From the National Foreign 
     Intelligence Program.--In addition to the amounts made 
     available to the Commission under subsection (a), of the 
     amounts authorized to be appropriated by the Intelligence 
     Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Public Law 108-177) 
     and available in the Department of Defense Appropriations 
     Act, 2004 (Public Law 108-87) for the National Foreign 
     Intelligence Program, not more than $6,000,000 shall be 
     available for transfer to the Commission for purposes of the 
     activities of the Commission under this title.''; and
       (3) in subsection (c), as so redesignated, by striking 
     ``subsection (a)'' and inserting ``this section''.

  Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, the Democratic and Republican 
commissioners on the blue ribbon commission investigating the September 
11, 2001 terrorist attacks reached an important and bipartisan 
decision. They decided they needed more time--more time to get access 
to the documents and people that can help us understand what happened 
on that fateful day; more time to analyze this information so they can 
help us identify which corrective measures are needed to reduce the 
prospects for future 9/11s; in short, more time to do what they are 
required to do by law.
  I come to the floor today to talk briefly about my views on this 
commission and its work, and to explain why I have joined with Senators 
McCain and Lieberman to offer legislation to give the commission the 
time needed to complete its task and provide the families of the 
victims of 9/11 and all Americans with a complete and thorough report.
  The importance of this commission's work cannot be overstated. This 
independent commission represents the last and perhaps best hope for 
our Nation to understand how 19 individuals were able to execute the 
most deadly terrorist attack on American soil in this Nation's long 
  How did these terrorists get into this country? What is the source of 
funding they used to carry out these activities? How did the hijackers 
get themselves, and apparently knives and mace, past airport security? 
How were they able to hijack four aircraft and drive them to such a 
deadly end? Why could our intelligence community and policymakers not 
do more to prevent these heinous acts? What can the Government and 
individual citizens do in the future to prevent similar attacks?
  These are but some of the difficult questions the commission has to 
address. Given the importance of their task, one would think that all 
parties--Democratic and Republican, Congress and the White House--would 
quickly agree to provide the commission whatever it needs.
  Unfortunately, in the days immediately after the commissioners made 
their request, it became evident some parties may not believe the 
commission should be provided the time it needs to do what is required 
by law.
  Quoting from the New York Times on January 28:

       The White House and Republican congressional leaders have 
     said they see no need to extend the congressionally mandated 
     deadline . . . and a spokesperson for Speaker J. Dennis 
     Hastert said . . . Mr. Hastert would oppose any legislation 
     to grant the extension.

  As unsettling as this position is, in hindsight, it should not be 
surprising to those who have followed the history of this commission. 
In the months immediately after the tragic events of September 11, 
2001, President Bush and Vice President Cheney personally appealed to 
me and to other Members of Congress not to establish a bipartisan blue 
ribbon commission.
  Vice President Cheney suggested to me that creating such an effort 
could detract from administration officials' efforts to get the 
terrorists responsible.
  Fortunately, neither the families of the victims of 9/11 nor the 
American people accepted this argument. They understood, and properly 
in my view, that an independent investigation would enhance our efforts 
on the war on terror.
  Far from endangering national security, an inquiry could actually 
help us pinpoint and correct flaws in our security and intelligence 
communities and identify the necessary corrective measures.
  Despite the fact that the idea of a commission enjoyed the 
overwhelming support of the families of the victims and of the American 
people, the administration, and the House Republican leadership 
persisted in their efforts to see that this idea never took flight--in 
some instances, at the same time they were publicly professing their 
support for the commission.
  For example, on the same day the White House spokesperson indicated 
President Bush supported the idea of a commission, his negotiators were 
on Capitol Hill vetoing a congressional agreement to establish one.
  In October of 2002, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees 
announced they had reached a deal to include language to establish the 
commission in the intelligence authorization bill. The next day, the 
deal collapsed and negotiators involved laid the blame at the doorstep 
of the White House and the House Republican leadership.
  According to the Washington Post, a senior Republican Senator said:

       The House Republican leadership weighed in against [the 
     deal] and the deal collapsed. . . . It is no secret that the 
     White House works through the House Republican leadership.

[[Page S374]]

  Again, the families of the victims and supporters of the commission 
were not deterred. In fact, this commission would not exist were it not 
for the dedicated efforts of the families of the victims. They pressed 
on, and in November of 2002, they prevailed.
  Congress passed the legislation creating the commission and the 
President signed it into law. The commission was given until May of 
2004 to do its work. We all knew at the time that this deadline was 
both arbitrary and highly ambitious, given the scope of the work 
involved. Subsequent actions would make meeting this deadline 
  The commission was immediately embroiled in controversy over the 
selection and subsequent resignation of Henry Kissinger, who the 
President selected to chair its work. But the obstacles placed in front 
of this commission were just the beginning. In light of the sensitive 
nature of much of the information the commission would be examining, 
getting the commission high-level security clearances was the first 
  However, for a variety of reasons, a process that could have taken 
weeks stretched into months, thereby preventing the commissioners from 
examining numerous important documents.
  Then came open resistance from the Bush administration to commission 
requests for access to documents and individuals the commissioners 
deemed vital to their inquiry. The commission quickly became bogged 
down in negotiations over which documents and individuals it would have 
access to and under what terms and conditions.
  Many agencies flat out refused to provide access. Others insisted the 
administration minders be present when the commission questioned 
Government employees.
  The commission was forced to resort to subpoenas to obtain 
information from several Federal agencies, and press reports is 
actively considering issuing others.
  As recently as this past week, it was reported that the 
administration is still placing roadblocks in front of the commission's 
vital work. Over the weekend, it was disclosed that the White House is 
refusing to allow the commission access to notes its own members have 
taken on briefings received by the President.
  As a result of the administration's repeated failure to cooperate 
fully and immediately with the commission and its important work, it 
has become increasingly clear that it cannot fulfill the immense task 
placed before it and comply with the deadline imposed on it.
  In order to meet this deadline, commissioners tell us they would have 
to cut corners. Scheduled hearings would have to be canceled. 
Interviews with key officials would have to be scrapped. Time to 
analyze their information and write their report would be short. All of 
these reasons led the commission, wisely in my view, to request 
additional time. All of these reasons led me to join the families of 
the victims, as well as Senators McCain and Lieberman, to conclude we 
must do everything possible to meet their requests.
  I hope those who have opposed the commission and its work in the past 
will step aside. I hope they will allow us to provide the commission 
with the time it needs to give the families and America the report it