Enewsletter: Lessons of September 11
Two years ago, Tom Kean, the chairman of the bipartisan September 11 Commission, said that 3,000 Americans died that September day because the government "simply was not active enough in combating the terrorist threat." And he warned that the terrorists were not going away. "We must prepare," he said, "and we must act."
Last week, President Bush presented documented evidence that we are better prepared and we are taking action. His words should comfort Americans. His proof should silence critics.
Yet as we arrive today on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Americans still have legitimate questions about the Global War on Terror. They demand answers. They deserve the truth. And like President Bush last week, we should engage in a serious conversation about where we have been and where we are going.
Are we winning the war on terror? Not one terrorist attack has hit America in five years. Not one. An accident? No way. Have the terrorists stopped trying? Not a chance. Just last month we learned that an even bigger nightmare than September 11 was being planned in London. We haven't had an attack in five years because our policies have prevented an attack and we have tools we simply didn't have before September ll. We haven't won yet. But we're getting there.
How are we doing it? By aggressively taking the fight to the terrorists both here and abroad. By capturing, detaining and interrogating terrorists. By removing their safe havens. And by dismantling their networks.
Why is our approach working? Because terrorists offer a rich quarry of information that we rightfully mine. This information helps us connect the dots to prevent attacks before they occur.
Take the example of Abu Zubaydah, a key terrorist leader captured not long after September 11. Using specialized procedures, the CIA extracted important information from Zubaydah that led to more arrests, including one of the masterminds of September 11 -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
The CIA interrogated Mohammed with similar methods and generated similar results. Mohammed divulged details about al Qaeda's efforts to acquire biological weapons and revealed a planned operation in America. Based on this information, U.S. authorities prevented the attack.
President Bush last week gave us the details to prove that the information we obtained led to saving innocent American lives. He also explained what it would mean to lose the tools used to obtain that information because the CIA program is now at risk.
The administration is now ready to keep a commitment made to the families of the victims of September 11 -- to bring the terrorists to justice. The administration is ready to try 14 key terrorist leaders, some of whom are believed to have been the primary masterminds behind the September ll attacks.
To do this the president needs Congress to authorize the use of military commissions -- a tool used by presidents during wartime since George Washington's day. After multiple reviews, the Department of Justice determined the use of military commissions to be legal. The Supreme Court agreed that the use of military commissions is appropriate; however, the Court stated that Congress should authorize such use.
That is what the president has asked us to do. And that is exactly what Congress should do.
It's time to bring these terrorists to justice and Congress should vote to create these commissions. I can't think of anything more important for this Congress than to address our national safety and we need to stay in session until this is completed, regardless of how long it takes.
As we commemorate the suffering and sacrifice of 3,000 Americans on September 11, we shouldn't forget the shock, anger and resolve that we all felt that September day. The families who lost their loved ones certainly haven't. Neither should we.
The terrorists certainly haven't.
Five years after the searing fire of September 11, we are indeed better prepared and we are taking action. But Congress needs to continue making available all the necessary tools to fight and win this war.
Now is not the time to move on. Now is the time to keep moving forward.
Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, sits on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and chairs the Congressional War on Terror Team.