Two leading U.S. Senators have introduced legislation to establish an independent citizens' commission to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks. Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican John McCain say the board would try to find out why the attacks took place and what could have been done to prevent them.
Senator Lieberman Thursday asked some of the questions still on the minds of many Americans, more than three months after the deadly suicide hijackings. "How could such a plan, using airplanes as weapons of mass destruction be so successful in achieving its deadly goals? Were opportunities missed to prevent that destruction? And what additional steps should be taken now to prevent any future attacks like that," he asked.
Senator Lieberman said he believes it is important to have an inquiry panel made up of citizens, outside the U-S government, to determine if the government can be found to be at fault. "It's particularly looking at the agencies of government to ask what more they could have done to prevent what happened on September 11," he said. "No one in a direct sense has been held accountable yet and it may be that no individual ought to be held accountable, but something didn't happen that should have happened."
Senator Lieberman said the range of the investigation would be very broad, to include everything from U.S. foreign policy to classified information.
Senator John McCain said particular attention would be given to U.S. intelligence. "When the director of the FBI says he didn't have an inkling that terrorists were receiving pilot training in the United States of America and other experts have called what happened on September 11 quote "a colossal intelligence failure," clearly if we're going to adequately protect America for the future we have to know the causes of what happened in the past," he said.
The Lieberman-McCain proposal calls for a commission that would have 14 members, including four appointed by President Bush. The two Senators are hoping the investigative board could begin work early next year, even as the war on terrorism and judicial cases related to September 11 continue.
Historically, similar commissions were established following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas in 1963.