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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Lieberman, McCain Address Homeland Security Bill Amendment

Aired September 19, 2002 - 11:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KRIS OSBORN, CNN ANCHOR: As we have been talking about throughout the morning, we have been bringing you into various live proceedings. There is one going on right now. Senator Lieberman is talking.
Now, what is going on is that a group of senators, including Torricelli and Senator McCain are looking to make an amendment to the homeland security bill and create an independent commission to investigation intelligence failures prior to 9/11.

Let's listen in to Senator Lieberman.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: ... prevented. The fact is, after hearing the chilling testimony given at the public hearing held by the Joint Intelligence Committee yesterday, I say to myself, I leave it to others to reach their own conclusions, that September 11 could have been prevented, if we were doing everything we should have done, and if we -- we had had our guard up, we had devoted more resources than to support -- apparently, just one analyst -- intelligence analyst after the director of the CIA essentially declared war on al Qaeda some years before.

All of what has happened begins to answer questions, but also raises more questions that requires the kind of independent commission of Senator McCain, Senator Torricelli, Senator Specter and I introduced.

I want to say to the families and all of you that momentum is building in our direction. It is building as a result of the ongoing disclosure of information, which raises more questions than it answers, but it is also building because of the persistent advocacy of the families, the heroes that are here with us.

We now have 23 sponsors of our legislation in the Senate, including two people who were skeptical at the beginning. The chairman and vice chair of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, Senator Bob Graham and Senator Dick Shelby.

This Bill came out of our committee earlier in the year. There were some questions about whether we should bring it up on the Senate floor if we didn't have enough votes. I think Senator McCain, Senator Torricelli, Senator Specter, and I think if we bring it up on the Senate floor, we will have enough votes, and I want to state very clearly my intention today to introduce the commission bill as an amendment to the homeland security legislation before the Senate now. The current measure pending, I want to be very specific, is Senator Byrd's amendment. When that is disposed of, which I hope will be later today, in the rotation that we have, Senator Thompson, as the ranking Republican, has the next amendment. After him, it goes back to me. I am going to use that slot to introduce our commission proposal, and I am confident that we have the support to adopt it, and when we get this commission up and working, and finishes its work, we can say with much more confidence, than we can now, that this will never happen again.

I thank you, and I would now, if it's OK, introduce my cosponsor and partner, the great John McCain of Arizona.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (D), ARIZONA: Thank you, Joe, and I want to thank you for making this issue a top priority on the homeland security bill.

Senator Lieberman and I introduced this legislation free-standing some time ago. The Congressional Committee has done good work, I think, but I know of no other way to serve that committee's purpose than to create an independent commission that will be immune to many of the problems that stymied the committee's work, and I'm happy to say that the committee leaders agree, both Senator Graham and Senator Shelby.

The headlines of the newspapers said "Intelligence Fails," "USA Today;" "While America Slept," "New York times;" "Barriers to 9/11 Inquiry Decried" in the "Washington Post."

Leaders of the Joint Congressional Committee have said that lack of cooperation from individuals within the administration undermined their work, which they acknowledge is clearly incomplete.

We have to have a comprehensive assessment of all events and factors that led up to the tragedy of 9/11. Otherwise, we will never have the confidence that we have addressed completely, or attempting to address completely, a way to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.

I'm somewhat surprised that the resistance that the administration has had to this amendment, but I believe now that we will pass it, we look forward to working with the administration, and having a commission composed of the most credible people in America, so that the American people can be confident that not only do we know what happened and what caused it, but we are taking all necessary action to prevent a repetition in the future.

I want to thank the family members who are represented here. Without their constant urging, we would not be addressing this issue with the priority that we are.

Now, I would like to ask Senator Torricelli if he would like to say a couple words, and then we would like to hear from the families.

SEN. BOB TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: My colleagues and members of the families... OSBORN: You have been listening to a live proceeding involving Senators McCain and Joe Lieberman talking about their intention to propose an amendment to the draft of the homeland security bill in which they would create an independent commission to investigate intelligence lapses prior to 9/11.

Senator Lieberman making some rather pointed criticisms, suggesting that, in fact, as a result of what he heard in the proceedings yesterday, he believed 9/11 could have been prevented. Some of that evidence included an indication in '98 that terrorists planned to attack the World Trade Center, another that terrorists were attempting to establish a cell in the United States, and then in 2001 that bin Laden apparently indicated he was interesting in using pilots and planes as weapons.

Senator McCain then went on to criticize what he said was a lack of coordination in the current administration prior to 9/11. Issues, of course, that their proposed amendment would seek to address. The idea for this, many have compared to the Warren Commission, which, of course, investigated the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy, and there was a similar independent commission which looked into the Pearl Harbor attacks. This is the kind of thing that they are proposing.

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