[Congressional Record: August 5, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S8855-S8856]


  Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, it has now been nearly 8 years since 
our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, as 19 al-Qaida members 
hijacked four jet airplanes and crashed three of them into the World 
Trade Center and the Pentagon. The passengers on the fourth plane, 
Flight 93, learned of the other attacks, fought back against the 
hijackers, and heroically gave their lives to prevent that plane from 
reaching its target in Washington, DC. That target was probably this 
very building--the U.S. Capitol.
  In the last 8 years, our homeland has not been attacked again. The 
reasons for this are many. We created a Department of Homeland 
Security, and we adopted reforms in our intelligence community 
recommended by the 9/11 Commission. We are now consistently connecting 
the intelligence dots that were not connected before 9/11. We have 
denied safe haven to terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and 
other countries around the world. And we have worked with our allies to 
prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to nuclear and 
radiological materials and to combat terrorist financing.
  One of the most important reasons why we have not been attacked again 
in the last 8 years is the tireless work of the men and women who serve 
in our intelligence agencies. While the attacks of 9/11 have receded 
into the memory of many Americans, I assure my colleagues that is not 
the case for the intelligence community. They know that the threat of 
terrorism has not diminished and are working each day to detect and 
disrupt terrorist plots targeting America and our allies.
  They know that the threats we face are ones that could imperil the 
lives of countless Americans. Just last year, the Commission on the 
Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction determined that it is ``more 
likely than not'' that a nuclear or biological weapon of mass 
destruction will be used against the United States in a terrorist 
attack within the next five years. Should a nuclear device detonate in 
an American city, it could instantly kill hundreds of thousands of 
people and render the city uninhabitable for years. This is a 
devastating possibility that America faces every day and agents are 
working to prevent every second of every day.
  For all of these reasons, I believe we have a responsibility to give 
our intelligence agencies and agents the resources and tools they need, 
as well as the respect and appreciation they have earned.
  What we should not do is go backwards by investigating intelligence 
officials who served us on the front lines of this ongoing war on 
terrorism and acted within legal guidance they were given.
  Attorney General Holder is still considering an investigation into 
CIA interrogators and contract employees. I fear that such an 
investigation could very well foster a climate of political 
recriminations and sap the morale of the intelligence community. Those 
near certain results would no doubt leave our country less safe.
  President Obama had it right when he said that with regard to past 
behavior by the intelligence community, he is ``more interested in 
looking forward . . . than looking backward.'' Given the threats that 
we face as a nation, it is imperative that we follow the President's 
  With regard to the treatment of detainees now in U.S. custody, the 
President has been clear. The Executive order he signed on January 22 
of this past year requires that all detainees in U.S. custody ``shall 
in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to 
violence to life and person'' and that all interrogations carried out 
by the U.S. Government, whether by the military, the CIA, the FBI or 
any other government entity, shall comply with the Army Field Manual. 
The President's Executive order is consistent with the Detainee 
Treatment Act as well as the Convention Against Torture and Common 
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Given that such policy changes 
have already been made, I can see no benefit from new investigations of 
intelligence officials, especially those who were doing what they 
thought was appropriate and necessary to keep us safe.
  The 9/11 Commission did a positive and constructive investigation of 
past events that needed to be understood so that we did not repeat the 
mistakes that made that horrific day possible. The commission 
investigated the activities of agencies such as the CIA and FBI in the 
years and months prior to the attacks of 9/11, and was unsparing in 
pointing out where those agencies had missed opportunities to disrupt 
the plot. As a result of the commission's recommendations, we 
established the Director of National Intelligence and the National 
Counterterrorism Center, improved sharing of intelligence information, 
and strengthened our watchlisting and visa issuance systems. All of 
these initiatives make the United States safer today against the threat 
of terrorism.

[[Page S8856]]

  A new investigation of interrogation procedures used on al-Qaida 
detainees would have no such benefits given that these procedures have 
now been changed. But an investigation into past practices could cause 
great harm.
  An investigation could ruin careers of men and women who have 
sacrificed so much on our behalf and would have a chilling effect on 
intelligence efforts moving forward. The overhanging threat of 
investigations will force those in the intelligence services to be risk 
averse, which in turn would make us all less secure. In the war against 
an enemy that does not wear a uniform, that ruthlessly kills innocent 
civilians, that then hides among those very same civilians, and that 
uses our own freedoms to undermine and attack us, tough decisions under 
great pressure--life and death decisions--must be made by those whose 
job it is to protect our security and our freedom.
  As CIA Director Leon Panetta recently wrote in the Washington Post:

       The time has come for both Democrats and Republicans to 
     take a deep breath and recognize the reality of what happened 
     after September 11, 2001. The question is not the sincerity 
     or the patriotism of those who were dealing with the 
     aftermath of September 11. The country was frightened, and 
     political leaders were trying to respond as best they could. 
     Judgments were made. Some of them were wrong. But that should 
     not taint those public servants who did their duty pursuant 
     to the legal guidance provided.

  As I said at the beginning, we must not take for granted the 
important fact that we have not been attacked on our homeland since 
September 11, 2001. That fact is not an accident nor is it just a 
product of good luck. It is mostly the result of the ceaseless efforts 
to protect our country by the brave men and women in our military, by 
all who work for civilian agencies involved in homeland security and 
counterterrorism, and last but not least, by the intelligence 
community. Those men and women are, as CIA Director Panetta pointed 
out, ``truly America's first line of defense.''
  I urge the Attorney General not to go forward with the investigations 
being debated now. The collateral damage to America's intelligence 
community could be severe and that is something no American should