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Senate Commerce Committee Examines Airline Security

Rockefeller Says Security Will Be A Major Focus For The Committee This Year

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a full committee hearing Wednesday on "The State of Aviation Security: Is Our Current System Capable of Meeting the Threat?" Testifying were Janet Napolitano, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Michael Leiter, Director, National Counterterrorism Center, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Co-Chair of the National Security Preparedness Group, Bipartisan Policy Center and Former Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, Co-Chair of the National Security Preparedness Group, Bipartisan Policy Center and Former Chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

The hearing was held in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight headed to Detroit. Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV opened the hearing with and indictment of the current security situation both in the U.S. and abroad. "A man with a bomb was able to board a plane headed for America - so it is obvious and clear our system failed. We have a responsibility to be brutally honest about where we have fallen short.  We have to do better.  And that basic fact will drive much of this Committee’s work in the year ahead. We have to do better at protecting our families, safeguarding our communities, and securing our nation."

In defending her agency, Napolitano (pictured, right) said the threat of terrorism presents a moving target to those trying to stop it. " We live in a world of ever-changing risks, and we must move as aggressively as possible both to find and fix security flaws and anticipate future vulnerabilities in all sectors," she said. "President Obama has clearly communicated the urgency of this task, and the American people rightfully expect swift action. DHS and our federal partners are moving quickly to provide just that.”

Former 9/11 Commission chair Tom Kean said President Obama should re-establish the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board stood up by President Bush following the attacks of September 11. “The balance between security and liberty will always be a part of the struggle against terrorism. America must not sacrifice one for the other and must be in the business of protecting freedom and liberty as well as fighting terrorism. Following the 9/11 Commission recommendations, the Bush Administration created a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to advise the executive branch and oversee government efforts to defend civil liberties. We continue to believe that the Board provides critical functions and we urge President Obama to reconstitute it, quickly appoint its Members, and allow them full access to the information and the authority to perform to perform this essential function.”

The former Vice-Chair of the 9/11 commission said the security infrastructure needs to do a better job of judging the sources of potential attacks. "As the President’s review has shown, we had a ‘strategic sense’ that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was becoming a threat, but ‘we didn’t know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here.’ This at once shows the need for improved collection and better analysis. We collect a tremendous amount of intelligence and we need the very best people not only sorting through it for tactical details, but in a strategic sense asking where the next attack will come from.”



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