Sep 18 2002

HEARING ON THE EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11TH
STATEMENT OF SENATOR RICHARD C. SHELBY

"We now know that our inability to detect and prevent the September 11th attacks was an intelligence failure of unprecedented magnitude. Even those of us who couldn't seem to utter the words - 'intelligence failure' - are now convinced of it."

"Many of us also knew that an accounting would have to be made on behalf of the innocent victims, the families left behind, and the American people. After all, there were nine separate investigations into the attack on Pearl Harbor. We agreed, however, that some time would have to pass before we began such an effort because we were at war and it was our top priority to ensure its success.

"Approximately six months after that fateful September day, our two Committees joined together in what I hoped would be a thorough and comprehensive examination of the United States's Intelligence Community's failure to detect and prevent the attacks on September 11th. Now, approximately six months later, we are making progress, but we are far from done, and I am concerned.

"The staff has reviewed many thousands of documents, but they have many thousands yet to review. They have interviewed many people, but there are many yet to interview. In fact, it is still very difficult even to determine how far we have come, and almost impossible to tell how far we have yet to go.

"I have been a part of many investigations in my career - but none has been as important as this one. Almost 3,000 Americans have been murdered, and perhaps thousands more innocent lives hang in the balance every day. This investigation must be thorough, comprehensive and complete. I want it to be a success. To be a success, however, an inquiry needs time and resources. If you limit either one, your chances of success diminish significantly. Unfortunately, we have a short supply of both in this inquiry and I am afraid that we are beginning to reap the results.

"From the outset, I argued strongly that we should avoid setting arbitrary deadlines. Deadlines are an invitation to stonewalling and foot-dragging, and we have seen some of both in this effort.

"I have also said many times that agencies under the Congressional microscope are generally not motivated to cooperate. To be thorough, we must be able to identify and locate relevant information, retrieve it, and then analyze it in the context of all of the other information we have gathered. This is inevitably difficult and time consuming.

"Because we have only one to three staffers actually focusing on any particular agency at any one time - and because so much of our Joint Inquiry Staff resources are tied up in producing hearings such as this one - it has become exceedingly difficult to be as thorough and probing as we need to be. I am afraid we have asked the Joint Staff to move a mountain and only given them a couple of shovels and a little over six months to get it done.

"This is a massive undertaking, and I compliment our Chairmen on their leadership. Anyone who is willing voluntarily to lead and coordinate an effort involving thirty-seven members of Congress deserves our admiration and our support - and perhaps our condolences. But, I am concerned that the management challenges you faced and continue to face have created some fundamental flaws in our process."

Many Members have found it exceedingly difficult to get information about the inquiry. They are frustrated by what they perceive to be efforts to limit their ability to participate fully. They want to support and ultimately to endorse this effort, but they will be unable to do so unless they have a clear and unfettered view of the activities of the Joint Staff. At this point, they do not.

Today, Eleanor Hill will present a summary of a statement intended to reflect the current state of our inquiry. Members, however, have had essentially no involvement with the process that led to its drafting, and therefore have little idea whether what it says is accurate or a fair and thorough representation of what has been discovered.

I am not saying that it is not accurate or thorough. Hopefully it is both. I am saying that our Members have no practical way of knowing.

These are concerns that we have discussed before and they will need to be resolved if we are to have any chance of reaching a consensus at the conclusion of this inquiry. I think that it is important that the American people know where we all stand as we begin to discuss publicly why their multi-billion-dollar Intelligence Community was unable to detect and prevent the worst single attack on American soil in our history.

At this point, I am very concerned that we may not have the time or resources to complete the job we set out to do. I will continue to support this effort, but there may come a day very soon when it will become apparent that ours must be only a prelude to further inquiries.