From the Congressional Record - Page S4453
    INVESTIGATE 9-11 -- (Senate - May 16, 2002)

    Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise today out of respect for and to speak on behalf of the people I represent in New York. I am especially mindful today of the memory of those whom we lost on September 11, their family members and their loved ones who, until this very minute, grieve for those who were sacrificed in the terrible attacks we suffered on September 11.

    We have learned something today that raises a number of serious questions. We have learned that President Bush had been informed last year, before September 11, of a possible plot by those associated with Osama bin Laden to hijack a U.S. airliner. The White House says the President took all appropriate steps in reaction to that warning. The White House further says that the warning did not include any specific information, such as which airline, which date, or the fact that a hijacked plane would be used as a missile. Those are all very important issues, worthy of exploration by the relevant committees of Congress. The goal of such an examination should not be to assign blame but to find out all of the facts.

    I also support the effort by Senators LIEBERMAN and MCCAIN to establish an independent national commission on terrorist attacks upon the United States. That was reported out of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in March. Such a panel can help assure the people of New York and America that every facet of this national tragedy will be fully examined in hopes that the lessons we learn can prevent disasters in the future.

    I very much appreciated the remarks by Senator Lieberman in the Chamber earlier today, indicating his desire to offer this proposal that he and Senator McCain have put forth as an amendment at the earliest possible time.

    Because we must do all we can to learn the hard lessons of experience from our past and apply them to safeguard our future, I also support the call by the distinguished majority leader, Mr. Daschle, for the release of the Phoenix FBI memorandum and the August intelligence briefing to congressional investigators, because, as Senator Daschle said this morning, the American people need to get the facts.

    I do know some things about the unique challenges faced by the person who assumes the mantle of Commander in Chief. I do not for a minute doubt that any individual who holds that responsibility is the only person who can truly know the full scope of the burdens of that office. Just the other day there was a survey about the most difficult job in America, the most stressful position. It should not come as any surprise that President of the United States ranked at the top.

    I have had the privilege of witnessing history up close, and I know there is never any shortage of second guessers and Monday morning quarterbacks, ready to dismantle any comment or critique any action taken or not taken. Having experienced that from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, I for one will not play that game, especially in these circumstances. I am simply here today on the floor of this hallowed Chamber to seek answers to the questions being asked by my constituents, questions raised by one of our newspapers in New York with the headline ``Bush Knew.''

    The President knew what? My constituents would like to know the answer to that and many other questions, not to blame the President or any other American but just to know, to learn from experience, to do all we can today to ensure that a 9-11 never happens again.

    If we look back, we know that the Phoenix FBI memorandum in early July raised very specific issues about certain people of Arab heritage who were taking flying lessons. For what purpose? To do what?

    We know that shortly after there was at least the news report of the Attorney General sending a directive that people of the Justice Department should no longer fly commercially. In fact, the Attorney General took a chartered plane for his own vacation.

    We know that in August additional information came forward, including what we learned today about the intelligence briefing provided to the President.

    The pain of 9-11 is revisited in thousands of homes in New York and around our country every time that terrible scene of those planes going into those towers and then their collapse appears on television. It is revisited in our minds every time we see a picture of the cleanup at Ground Zero. It is revisited every time the remains of a fallen hero are recovered, as they were yesterday for Deputy Chief Downey. And it is revisited today with the questions about what might have been had the pieces of the puzzle been put together in a different way before that sad and tragic day in September.

    I cannot answer the questions my constituents are asking. I cannot answer the concerns raised by the families of the victims. As agonizing as it is even to think that there was intelligence suggesting the possibility of the tragedy that occurred, particularly for the family members who lost their husband, their wife, their son, their daughter, their niece, their nephew, their mother, their father, it is a subject we are absolutely required to explore.

    As for the President, he may not be in a position at this time to respond to all of those concerns, but he is in a position to answer some of them, including the question of why we know today, May 16, about the warning he received. Why did we not know this on April 16 or March 16 or February or January 16 or August 16 of last year?

    I do hope and trust that the President will assume the duty that we know he is capable of fulfilling, exercise the leadership that we know he has, and come before the American people, at the earliest possible time, to answer the questions so many New Yorkers and Americans are asking. That will be a very great help to all of us.

    I know my constituents want those answers, particularly the families who still today wonder why their loved one went to work that beautiful September morning and did not come home from the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or those airplane flights. After all, in the grieving process, it is often the not knowing that hurts the most.

    I hope the President will address these issues, will do so as soon as possible, and will also authorize the release of any other information that New Yorkers and Americans have a right to know. I certainly look forward to learning of and being able to share that information with the people I represent.

    I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

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