Congressional Record: March 23, 2004 (Senate)
Page S2955-S2957

                          THE 9/11 COMMISSION

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I would like to talk a little bit about 
the 9/11 Commission which, of course, is right now beginning to 
interview some of the most high-level people in our Government. The 
Commission has an important and, I would say, sacred mission, and that 
mission is to find out what happened and why so many people were killed 
in the tragedy of 9/11. Of course, many of those people were from my 
city and State--the vast majority. Some of those people I knew: someone 
I played basketball with in high school, someone who was a businessman 
who befriended me on the way up, someone who was a brave firefighter 
from the Marine Park neighborhood from where I come. And the families 
mirror--of course with greater intensity--the determination of the 
American people to get to the bottom of this.
  The unfortunate situation is the 9/11 Commission--which is bipartisan 
and has an important mission that transcends any politics, any one 
administration, any one Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State or 
President--is being thwarted as it tries to do its work. They have 
not been given documents. They have been delayed. Even to this day, 
Condoleezza Rice has said she will not testify to the Commission in 
public, even though she was in probably the most sensitive staff 
position there could be in regard to figuring out the signals before 9/
11 and what should be done as a result of 9/11.

  I think this is regretful. I think this shows, unfortunately, a 
pattern in this administration of not wanting facts, of sort of making 
up your mind first and then trying to get the facts to fit that.
  It is no secret I have been sympathetic to the President on the war 
in Iraq. I disagree with certain things he did, but I voted for the 
war. I voted for the $87 billion. I think we have to fight terrorism. 
And I do think it is easy to second-guess. I also believe we could get 
so hamstrung and do nothing that the terrorists would gain more than 
they have.
  Having said that, if there is one thing we thrive on, if there is a 
thing that is a hallmark not only of winning a successful war on 
terrorism but of defending the very democracy the terrorists hate and 
fight, it is that all information come out so we can make an accurate 
  I have to tell you, as you look at it, it seems this administration 
does not want all the facts to come out and, in fact, oftentimes 
thwarts facts coming out; and then, when they hear facts they do not 
like that come out not because of administration auspices, they start 
kneecapping the bringer of bad news.
  This has not just happened in one instance; this has happened in 
instance after instance after instance. Today there is a whole machine 
discrediting Richard Clarke--certainly disagree with his arguments, 
certainly disagree with his interpretations of what happened in the 
White House.
  There are two sides to every argument. But to say Mr. Clarke--who, 
until 2000, according to the newspapers, was a registered Republican, 
whom I know well, whose sole mission was to defend us against 
terrorism--to call him names and say he is motivated by partisan 
politics and he has one friend in the John Kerry campaign, that does a 
disservice to America; to do the same thing to Mr. Foster, who had 
numbers on how much the prescription drug bill would cost; to do the 
same thing to Ambassador Wilson; to do the same thing to Chief of Staff 
General Shinseki, this is a pattern that does not do the President, the 
White House, or the administration proud. In fact, it has an 
antidemocratic tinge to it that should make all of us worry, that 
should make all of us troubled by what has happened.
  Probably the last analogy to 9/11 was Pearl Harbor. And what did this 
country do? What did Franklin D. Roosevelt and the leaders of this 
country do? They said: We need to find the facts as to why we were so 
unprepared. Might those facts have damaged people in office? Surely. 
But, nonetheless, pursue the facts we did, and a comprehensive report 
on why America slept was issued.
  This 9/11 Commission is in that tradition. Yet this 9/11 Commission 
has been thwarted every step of the way. Governor Kean is a Republican, 
greatly respected, not a partisan man. The vice chairman is Lee 
Hamilton, whom I served with in the House--the same way, a Democrat, 
but not regarded as partisan. In fact, sometimes the 
Democratic leadership in the House would tear their hair out at Lee 
Hamilton's bipartisan nature.

  Yet there is almost a fear of facts coming out. What does this say to 
the American people? Do we believe our country is right? I do. Do we 
believe, unlike other countries, that we search for the truth, even 
though that truth sometimes creates bad currents, dissension, whatever, 
but that truth is the hallmark of our democracy? I do. I think the vast 
majority of Americans do. I think if you ask President Bush, he would 
say he does.
  But yet, over and over again, with the 9/11 Commission, with Richard 
Clarke, with Mr. Foster, with Ambassador Wilson, there has been not 
only an aversion to facts coming out but a kind of ``McCarthyism'' in 
sort of calling names at the person who had a different interpretation 
instead of debating whether their interpretation was right or wrong.
  This is bad for our democracy. This does not bring credit to this 
President or the Presidency. This has to stop. I hope today, as the 9/
11 Commission begins to interview a series of very important 
witnesses--two Presidents, two Vice Presidents, many of their leaders--
maybe we can turn over a new leaf; that maybe, instead of stonewalling 
and name-calling and hiding from the truth, this administration will 
say, look, when you are President you have the powers of the 
incumbency, but it is also a tough country to govern and sometimes you 
have to take one for the truth, you have to take one because the facts 
do not quite square how you thought they did, and explain that to the 
American people.
  I see my colleague from Oregon in the Chamber, and I know he is going 
to speak on the same subject.
  But, again, this 9/11 Commission is extremely important. As Santayana 
said: Those of us who don't learn the lessons of history are condemned 
to repeat them. As a New Yorker, I believe that particularly in regard 
to 9/11. If we cannot get a full, unvarnished, nonpartisan reading of 
the facts--an analysis of why we were caught so unprepared on that 
awful day, 9/11--it will hurt us in fighting this war on terrorism, 
which I believe will be with us for a generation.
  If we start off in a way that we are afraid of the facts, if we start 
off seeming to believe only one side is right and the motivation of 
anyone who disagrees is suspect, I fear we will not win the war on 
terror because we will not learn what has happened and we will not be 
able to correct the mistakes that have been made by many different 
people of both political parties in the past.
  My final plea to our President at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is, don't 
hide the facts. Don't be afraid of the facts. Don't try to undermine 
those who will present the facts. Our country will be better and 
stronger for it if you can stick to those rules.

[[Page S2956]]

  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon is recognized for 10 
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from New York for 
taking this time. I want to spend a few minutes trying to put in 
context the debate about Mr. Clarke's new book. It seems to me that 
first and foremost this debate is about more than ``he said/she said.'' 
Invariably that is what these discussions become fairly quickly. I want 
to review a couple of instances that have caused me to be particularly 
concerned about the way the Clarke book has been handled.
  When former Ambassador Wilson was concerned that the administration 
had no evidence that the Iraqis had attempted to buy yellow cake from 
Nigeria, there was a very significant effort to try to discredit him. 
When former Treasury Secretary O'Neill, a close friend of the Vice 
President, in effect talked about the administration going after Saddam 
Hussein, everybody in the administration said he was all wet as well. 
Now we see the same tactic employed against Mr. Clarke, who served both 
Republican and Democratic administrations, beginning with the Reagan 
  Having worked closely with Mr. Clarke on a number of issues relating 
to cyber terrorism, Mr. Clarke has been very critical of actions taken 
by executive branch officials of both political parties.
  My sense is that, when you look at what people such as former Post 
reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein have said over the years, you 
don't go with a story unless you have two independent sources to 
confirm it. What you have this morning is Mr. Clarke in effect 
confirming Secretary O'Neill's account of the administration's focus on 
Saddam Hussein.
  That is particularly important. These are two people with a long 
history of working in Washington, DC. Both of them have been fiercely 
independent. Both are known for calling the issues on the basis of how 
they see them. In effect, you have Mr. Clarke now confirming Secretary 
O'Neill's account with respect to the focus on Saddam Hussein.
  There is an old saying that all roads lead to Rome. It seems the 
administration so often clearly believes that no matter what the 
evidence was at any particular time, essentially everything led to 
Saddam Hussein.
  It is clear that Saddam Hussein, throughout his leadership in Iraq, 
consistently looked for opportunities to inflict pain and trauma on the 
people of that country. It is beyond question that this was an evil 
individual. But at the same time, it is critically important that we be 
in a position to follow the facts.
  I sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee. I have always tried to 
work in a bipartisan way. I see the Presiding Officer of the Senate, 
Mr. Smith. He and I together have tried to set an example of 
bipartisanship. That is the way we need to proceed in this critical 
area. When you have the Clarke book backing up what former Secretary 
O'Neill said, that ought to set off alarm bells. That ought to set off 
alarm bells with respect to exactly how information is filtered now in 
the executive branch.
  I am hopeful we will see this independent inquiry get to the bottom 
of the situation and find out exactly what transpired after this 
critical situation with the attack on our country. It is important that 
our Nation get the facts. It is important that they are found in a 
dispassionate fashion. Now with this new book by Mr. Clarke making it 
clear that he shares the judgment of Secretary O'Neill, it ought to 
renew a concern in the Congress and a concern on a bipartisan basis 
that this country has a right to know, this country has a right to the 
facts. Certainly the question of responsibility for 9/11 is an issue 
the American people should be able to see in a dispassionate fashion, 
what really happened and how it happened. If anything, the events of 
the last week reaffirm in my mind how important it is that the American 
people get the real story.

  I yield my time. I note the Senator from North Dakota is on the floor 
as well. He and I have worked together on many issues. Certainly on the 
foreign policy arena, we share the view that these issues have to be 
worked on in a bipartisan way. I will continue to focus on the evidence 
and focus on that evidence no matter where it leads.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota.
  Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, let me follow on the comments of my 
colleagues from New York and Oregon. The issue of 9/11 is very 
important. I have spoken a couple of times about it previously, only 
because we created a commission to take a look at what happened with 
respect to 9/11, events leading up to it and following, to try to 
understand what happened, how did it happen, and what lessons can we 
  I have been very distraught that the 9/11 Commission has actually had 
to issue subpoenas. This Commission that we, with the President, have 
impaneled to find the answers of what happened and what we can learn 
has had to issue subpoenas to our government to get information. I 
don't understand that. Why on earth should this Commission have had to 
use any subpoena power at any time?
  Why would not the administration have said to all of the agencies 
under their control, anything this Commission wants, anything they ask 
for--they are doing the country's work--provide complete information? 
Instead, they have met with roadblocks. I do not understand that.
  I learned this morning that National Security Adviser Condoleezza 
Rice is willing to testify but not in public and in limited 
circumstances. The fact is, on Sunday she was a guest on all five 
network morning shows. She has plenty of time to do that, but somehow 
there is not enough time to appear publicly before the 9/11 Commission 
to give testimony. I do not understand that. I believe and hope that 
all Republicans and Democrats, this President and this Congress, just 
want the unvarnished facts, what happened and what can we learn from 
  I know in recent days there have been discussions about a number of 
books that have been written. I was on the floor also and spoke about 
former Treasury Secretary O'Neill's book. The Secretary described 
circumstances where almost instantly, in meetings in the White House, 
the question posed by the President and the Vice President and Mr. 
Wolfowitz and others was, What about Iraq? Let's get the evidence on 
Iraq. Suggesting that there was only one issue, and that was to use 9/
11 to get Iraq.
  My colleague from Oregon said it well. The leader of Iraq was a 
murderer. We are unearthing football-field-sized graves in Iraq.
  This man was a butcher, no question about that. But there are bad 
people around the world who are in place now and there are no plans in 
this Chamber or at the White House to go after them.
  The pretext of dealing with Iraq was that they had weapons of mass 
destruction, we were told. The CIA and others provided secret briefings 
to us, and Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and many others provided the 
evidence. Secretary Rumsfeld said, ``We know where those weapons of 
mass destruction are, where they exist.''
  The Secretary of State went to the United Nations and laid it out 
with pictures and slides and said, ``Here is the evidence.'' It turns 
out that evidence wasn't accurate. So Mr. O'Neill writes a bit about 
that. Now Mr. Clarke writes a book about it. He is not a Democrat; he 
is a Republican. There is now an industry in the last 24 hours to try 
to destroy his credibility. I don't know Mr. Clarke. I don't believe I 
have ever met him. All I know is that legitimate questions are being 
raised about these issues, about intelligence, about Iraq, and about 
the commission that has been impaneled to look into 9/11.
  It all has the same kind of origin; that is, let's not ask questions, 
let's not disclose this or that, let's keep it all secret, if we can. 
Part of this shroud of secrecy that Mr. Krugman writes about, in fact, 
I believe in this morning's New York Times, also relates to something 
we learned last week that is of incredible importance. We learned last 
week that this issue of the Medicare bill being discussed on the floor 
of the Senate--adding prescription drugs to Medicare--that the 
estimates of the cost of that proposal that were given to Congress were 
wrong and, in fact, the administration had estimates that would have 
had a substantial impact, perhaps, on the debate on that legislation. 
They had those estimates, but the

[[Page S2957]]

person who had them, the chief actuary--again, no Democrat, just a 
career public servant who, by all accounts, is a wonderful public 
servant--had the estimates and was told: If you provide the real 
estimates to Congress, you will be fired.
  If anything demands an investigation, it is that. It demands an 
immediate investigation. If you cannot rely on information coming from 
the executive branch about programs we are considering on the floor of 
the Senate because someone threatened to fire someone if they tell the 
truth to the Congress, there is something radically wrong. So it 
doesn't matter whether it is Mr. Clarke who writes a book and describes 
what he found in the White House. He also worked, as you know, for the 
Clinton administration. He worked for the first George Bush Presidency. 
He has worked for George W. Bush for the last couple of years. He 
writes a book and raises serious questions about the information that 
was used to decide to focus on Iraq rather than on al-Qaida. I think 
many of us now, at least in the rearview mirror, look at that and say 
moving from Afghanistan to Iraq and not continuing to focus on the 
destruction of al-Qaida may have been a serious mistake.
  How did that happen? Why did that happen? These are legitimate public 
policy questions. I suppose there is politics in some of it. I think 
the well-being and future of this country depends on our getting this 
right. We talk about the quality of intelligence and the questions 
about that, and whether intelligence information was misrepresented.

  Look, the next potential terrorist attack against this country will 
be thwarted--if it is thwarted, and we certainly hope it is--by good 
intelligence. We must rely on our intelligence system. Is there 
something wrong with that system? If there is, it must be fixed now. It 
is not sufficient just to say, somebody wrote a book, so let's trash 
this person time and time again. That is not what we ought to do. We 
ought to get to the bottom of what is happening here, what caused all 
these things to happen, what can we learn about it and what can we do 
to protect our country.
  Mr. President, I yield the remaining time I might have to the Senator 
from Delaware, Mr. Carper. How much time remains?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Just under 7 minutes.