This Tuesday, July 22, marked the 10-year anniversary of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report. As the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I can tell you that this report has been and continues to be incredibly important to the work that we do in the Committee and in Congress.
On Wednesday, I took to the Senator floor to commemorate this important occasion.
Nearly 13 years ago, on September 11, 2001, our nation suffered its most devastating attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. In the months after this horrific attack, Congress and the president endeavored to answer the many painful questions we were all asking ourselves in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Together, we established the 9/11 Commission.
The bipartisan commission, led by former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, a Republican, and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, interviewed more than 1,200 people in 10 countries—including every single relevant senior national security official from two administrations—and reviewed more than 2.5 million pages of documents. Despite the political tensions and partisan climate that had engulfed nation at the time, the commissioners put aside their own political differences and issued their final report 10 years ago. Their overall findings, including 41 recommendations to enhance national security, were published in the final 592-page 9/11 Commission Report. It was a remarkable achievement, not only because of the depth and breadth of the commission’s findings, but because all 10 commissioners – five Democrats and five Republicans – came to agreement on every single word in that report.
In the months and years following the report’s release, Democrats and Republicans in Congress worked together with the Bush administration to enact two major laws to implement the report’s recommendations. Among other things, these two historic bills created a new director of national intelligence to coordinate and oversee all information sharing and intelligence activities, implemented a passenger prescreening system that ensures terrorists aren’t able to fly on aircraft, and established a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. When you think about these accomplishments, I think it’s safe to say that the 9/11 Commission Report has proven to be one of the most important and influential efforts of its kind in recent history. We owe a debt of gratitude to the commissioners for their determined and clear-eyed approach to improving the security of our nation.
Today, we in Congress should recapture the spirit of unity that made this incredible bipartisan achievement possible. We must remember to set aside what separates us, remember what binds us, and come together to keep Americans safe and our homeland secure. Given the challenges that our country still faces at home and abroad, it is our duty.