In the fall of 2001, Family Steering Committee members began the first of many trips to Washington D.C. to demand that Congress create legislation for an independent investigation into the September 11th terrorist attacks. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Richard C. Shelby (R -AL) and Representatives Tim Roemer (D-IN), Chris Shays (R-CT), and Chris Smith (R-NJ) supported our efforts. While some family members lobbied in Washington, others faxed and phoned members of Congress and the White House to obtain support for an independent commission.
Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks, and evaluate the United States’ preparedness and response to the attacks.
A coalition of organizations representing 9/11 families issued a call for a rally in Washington, D. C., to demand that an independent commission be created to investigate the September 11th terrorist attacks. Political leaders who spoke in favor of creating an independent commission were Senators Lieberman (D-CT), Torricelli (D-NJ), Clinton (D-NY) and Schumer (D-NY) and Representatives Roemer (D-IN) and Smith (R-NJ) and Gephardt (D-MO).
The House of Representatives passed an amendment to the 2003 Intelligence Appropriations Act (HR 4628). The amendment, introduced by Tim Roemer (D-IN), required the establishment of a bipartisan “blue ribbon” commission to investigate intelligence failures that led the September 11th terrorist attacks and recommend actions to help prevent future attacks. The amendment passed by a vote of 219 to 188.
Previously, Congressman Roemer had introduced a bill (H.R. 4777) that would have established a commission charged with a broader mandate to study intelligence and law enforcement agencies, commercial aviation, diplomacy, and the flow of assets to terrorist organizations. The families supported this broader mandate.
An amendment offered by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) which would require inclusion of two victim family members on the commission passed by a voice vote.
Two family members, Kristen Breitweiser and Stephen Push testified before the Joint Intelligence Committee. To read their statements, visit:
Click Here for Kristen Breitweiser’s Testimony
Click Here for Stephen Push’s Testimony
Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced a resolution expressing the Sense of the House of Representatives that the President should appoint a non-partisan commission to investigate the terrorist attacks, and the United States’ preparedness for and response to them. The resolution also called for recommendations on corrective measures to prevent such acts in the future.
The Senate voted 90 to 8 to pass the Lieberman-McCain amendment which would establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks. The amendment was initially opposed by the Bush Administration. Support for the amendment gained momentum as House-Senate Intelligence Committee hearings released new information on intelligence failures leading to the attacks.
Bipartisan agreement on the creation of an independent commission was announced. It called for a panel of ten nationally recognized private citizens, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In the agreement, the White House would choose one co-chairman and Congressional Democrats choose the other.
However, within hours, the White House announced opposition to the agreement. The administration believed it should be allowed to appoint the chairman of the panel, and it also objected to the number of votes needed for subpoena power, as well as the duration and scope of the commission.
In response, family members staged a candlelight vigil in front of the White House to call attention to the urgent need for an independent investigation into September 11th and to demand that the administration drop its objections to a full inquiry.
November 27, 2002
President Bush signed the Intelligence Authorization Act, which included a provision to create the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States which is charged with investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001. With the signing, the clock began to tick on the commission’s 18 month duration.
Both Henry Kissinger, chairman, and former Senator George Mitchell, the vice-chairman, resigned from the commission due to potential conflicts of interest.
Former NJ governor Thomas Kean was subsequently appointed chairman and former Congressman Lee Hamilton was appointed vice-chairman of the Independent Commission. Richard Ben-Veniste, Max Cleland, Fred F. Fielding, Jamie S. Gorelick, Slade Gorton, John F. Lehman, Timothy J. Roemer and James R. Thompson were also selected to serve on the commission.