National Commission on Terrorism - Congressional Record: September 9, 1998

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National Commission on Terrorism  (1998) 
by Frank Rudolph Wolf

National Commission on Terrorism. Congressional Record. September 9, 1998. Extensions of Remarks. Page E1653-E1654. DOCID:cr09se98-4. (available online)


  Wednesday, September 9, 1998

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, today, I am introducing legislation which will establish a national commission on terrorism. This will be a bipartisan, national panel of experts with diverse skills and outlooks--highly respected people from across the political spectrum. The commission would be accountable to the President, to Congress, and to the American people.

The purpose of the commission would be to take a close look at the problem of terrorism, including Middle Eastern-related terrorism, to study its origins and develop effective countermeasures and make recommendations to reshape our traditional policy on combating terrorism. A number of person could be considered as possible commissioners, and I've listed a few suggestions for starters on the enclosed list.

The proposed bipartisan national commission will consist of 15 distinguished members, five each appointed by the President, and by the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate in consultation with the Minority Leaders of the House and Senate. I believe that President George H.W. Bush, who is not only a former president and vice president, but also a former director of the CIA, would be an ideal chairman for the commission. The commissioners will include three Members of Congress and three Senators. The commission will have a duration of six months and will be given every means to deal quickly with this national problem, including access to classified information, travel funds to engage in on-the-spot investigations, and accompanying congressional hearings.

A few weeks ago, 267 people lost their lives and more than 5,000 people were injured in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Twelve of those who died were Americans.

On August 20, President Clinton announced that the U.S. had determined a multimillionaire militant and terrorist kingpin, Osama Bin Ladin, was responsible for the attack. American forces bombed secret compounds and facilities linked to Bin Ladin in Afghanistan and Sudan that same day. While this response was proper and necessary, I believe we need to take another look at our nation's overall policy on terrorism. Bin Ladin is certainly not our only worry. Unfortunately, there are other groups are also known to be active in the area of terrorism.

As the world's leader, America and its people are natural terrorist targets. Our military, industrial and commercial presence around the globe attracts frustration from many terrorist groups.

But the problem is not limited to America alone. In Israel, Algeria, Egypt, and many other countries, terrorism has become an awful fact of life. A recent study in the Journal of Counterterrorism and Security International of all fatalities in international terrorist incidents in 1993-96 showed that three-quarters of the deaths from those attacks could be laid at the feet of the militant, fundamentalist groups.

In my travels to many of these countries, I have seen firsthand the destruction that terrorism has inflicted on many innocent people. I visited Sudan on three different occasions, and saw the great instability that terrorist elements bring to a country when they are allowed to flourish. Over the July 1998 congressional recess, I visited Algeria, where 70,000 people have been killed by terrorists. I saw the fear and the sorrow that grips the people there as they have lost countless friends and loved ones in the violence in that nation. When I visited Lebanon after the horrible bombing in Beirut in 1983, I saw the Marine barracks that had been destroyed. On October 23, 1983, massive vehicle bombs devastated the headquarters of the U.S. Marine contingent, killing 241 U.S. Marines.

After my recent trip to Algeria and with this latest attack on the embassies in East Africa, I am convinced that it is time to reevaluate American counterterrorist strategy. I say this not to be critical of what has already been done or of current efforts. Much is being accomplished by the intelligence community in this regard. They are doing a great job and are to be complimented. Still, terrorism is growing.

Until now, we have been fortunate not to experience the full brunt of many terrorist attacks on our home soil. According to a recent article in the Economist, investigators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing concluded that those plotting the incident intended to cause one tower to topple onto the other and to kill up to 250,000 people. Fortunately, the attack was not as successful as planned.

Some regions of the world are much more dangerous than others. Since 1983, more Americans have been killed by attacks perpetrated by terrorists either based in or connected to the Middle East than any other region of the world. In fact, the largest number of American lives lost to politically motivated violence since the end of the Vietnam War has been connected to Middle Eastern terrorism.

A number of incidents have not yet been fully resolved. In some cases, the perpetrators remain unknown. In other cases, the perpetrators are known but have not yet been held accountable for their actions, or have taken refuge in other countries.

Outstanding incidents are many. One of the most deadly years for terrorist violence was 1983, with bombing of the Beirut embassy in April and the Marine barracks in October. Five years later, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed in flight over Scotland by a bomb, killing 259 persons on board, including 189 Americans, and 11 others on the ground. Experts say that although the culprits have been pinpointed, they are currently hiding in Libya and that nation is refusing to hand them over to authorities.

More recently came the car bomb explosion in the parking lot of the Office of Program Manager/Saudi Arabian National Guard in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in November 1995, which killed seven people and wounded 42 others. Seven months later in that country, a fuel truck carrying a bomb exploded outside the U.S. military's Khobar Towers housing facility in Dharan, killing 19 U.S. military personnel and wounding 515 persons, including 240 U.S. personnel.

Unidentified gunmen shot to death four U.S. auditors from Union Texas Petroleum and their Pakistani driver in Karachi, Pakistan, in November 1997. Now we are facing the latest terrorist incident of the bombing of two American embassies in East Africa. But over these last 15 years, there have been many other terrorist attacks and American blood has been shed both at home and abroad.

U.S. government agencies and private organizations have done valuable work to unearth the perpetrators of these crimes. Unfortunately, the potential for both an increased number of terrorist acts and for acts that can result in massive numbers of casualties is great and is growing.

America, and the world, must be prepared for new and more deadly kinds of terrorism--nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons of mass destruction. The danger is growing as weapons of mass destruction become more accessible.

The world watched in horror in March 1995, when the news came that members of a small religious sect had set off a nerve gas called sarin in the Tokyo subway. The incident killed 12 people and injured several thousand, but it was actually, like the World Trade Center, a botched job. When they investigated later, police found enough sarin in the sect's possession to kill millions of people.

It is imperative that the United States assess the most effective ways of combating terrorism and that policymakers have the full spectrum of options at their disposal. This is what the National Commission on Terrorism will do. And it must do so quickly. The American people deserve to be fully informed on this issue in the face of a powerful and vicious adversary.


National Commission on Terrorism

Robert Abrams, former attorney general, New York State; Fouad Ajami, professor at the School of Advanced International Studies Johns Hopkins University; Ed Badaloto, chairman of the International Association of Counterterrorism Professionals; Lawrence Barcella, former federal prosecutor; Paul Bremer, former head of counter-terrorism, Department of State; John Deutch, former director of the CIA; David Gavigan, assistant adjutant general, Massachusetts Army National Guard; Robin Higgins, Marine colonel; David Kay, Director of SAIC's Center of Counter-terrorism; and Jeane Kirkpatrick, former ambassador to the United Nations.

Andrew McCarthy, former chief prosecutor, World Trade Center bombing; Riad Nachef, head of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects; Raphael Perl, Congressional Research Service; Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense; Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum; Steven Pomerantz, former assistant director of the FBI for counter-terrorism; George Shultz, former secretary of state; Glenn Schweizer, National Science Foundation; William Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA; Phil Wilcox, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department; and Jim Woosley, former director of the CIA.

(Note: This addendum is provided to illustrate the types of people who could serve on the commission and is by no means all-inclusive. There are many more individuals who are fully qualified to be on this commission.)


H.R. --

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) Establishment.--There is established a national commission on terrorism to review counter-terrorism policies regarding the prevention and punishment of international acts of terrorism directed at the United States. The commission shall be known as "The National Commission on Terrorism".

(b) Composition.--The commission shall be composed of 15 members appointed as follows:

(1) Five members shall be appointed by the President from among officers or employees of the executive branch, private citizens of the United States, or both. Not more than 3 members selected by the President shall be members of the same political party.

(2) Five members shall be appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate, in consultation with the Minority Leader of the Senate, from among members of the Senate, private citizens of the United States, or both. Not more than 3 of the members selected by the Majority Leader shall be members of the same political party and 3 members shall be members of the Senate.

(3) Five members shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in consultation with the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, from among members of the House of Representatives, private citizens of the United States, or both. Not more than 3 of the members selected by the Speaker shall be members of the same political party and 3 members shall be members of the House of Representatives.

(4) The appointments of the members of the commission should be made no later than 3 months after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(c) Qualifications.--The members should have a knowledge and expertise in matters to be studied by the commission.

(d) Chairman.--The chairman of the commission shall be elected by the members of the commission.


(a) In General.--The commission shall consider issues relating to international terrorism directed at the United States as follows:

(1) Review the laws, regulations, policies, directives, and practices relating to counterterrorism in the prevention and punishment of international terrorism directed towards the United States.

(2) Assess the extent to which laws, regulations, policies, directives, and practices relating to counterterrorism have been effective in preventing or punishing international terrorism directed towards the United States. At a minimum, the assessment should include a review of the following:

(A) Evidence that terrorist organizations have established an infrastructure in the western hemisphere for the support and conduct of terrorist activities.

(B) Executive branch efforts to coordinate counterterrorism activities among Federal, State, and local agencies and with other nations to determine the effectiveness of such coordination efforts.

(C) Executive branch efforts to prevent the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons by terrorists.

(3) Recommend changes to counterterrorism policy in preventing and punishing international terrorism directed toward the United States.

(b) Report.--Not later than 6 months after the date on which the Commission first meets, the Commission shall submit to the President and the Congress a final report of the findings and conclusions of the commission, together with any recommendations.


(a) Meetings.--

(1) The commission shall hold its first meeting on a date designated by the Speaker of the House which is not later than 30 days after the date on which all members have been appointed.

(2) After the first meeting, the commission shall meet upon the call of the chairman.

(3) A majority of the members of the commission shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may hold meetings.

(b) Authority of Individuals to Act for Commission.--Any member or agent of the commission may, if authorized by the commission, take any action which the commission is authorized to take under this Act.

(c) Powers.--

(1) The commission may hold such hearings, sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, and receive such evidence as the commission considers advisable to carry out its duties.

(2) The commission may secure directly from any agency of the Federal Government such information as the commission considers necessary to carry out its duties. Upon the request of the chairman of the commission, the head of a department or agency shall furnish the requested information expeditiously to the commission.

(3) The commission may use the United States mails in the same manner and under the same conditions as other departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

(d) Pay and Expenses of Commission Members.--

(1) Each member of the commission who is not an employee of the government shall be paid at a rate equal for the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay prescribed for level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of title 5, United States Code, for each day (including travel time) during which such member is engaged in performing the duties of the commission.

(2) Members and personnel for the commission may travel on aircraft, vehicles, or other conveyances of the Armed Forces of the United States when travel is necessary in the performance of a duty of the commission except when the cost of commercial transportation is less expensive.

(3) The members of the commission may be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, at rates authorized for employees of agencies under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code, while away from their homes or regular places of business in the performance of services for the commission.

(4)(A) A member of the commission who is an annuitant otherwise covered by section 8344 of 8468 of title 5, United States Code, by reason of membership on the commission shall not be subject to the provisions of such section with respect to membership on the commission.

(B) A member of the commission who is a member or former member of a uniformed service shall not be subject to the provisions of subsections (b) and (c) of section 5532 of such title with respect to membership on the commission.

(e) Staff and Administrative Support.--

(1) The chairman of the commission may, without regard to civil service laws and regulations, appoint and terminate an executive director and up to 3 additional staff members as necessary to enable the commission to perform its duties. The chairman of the commission may fix the compensation of the executive director and other personnel without regard to the provisions of chapter 51, and subchapter III of chapter 53, of title 5, United States Code, relating to classification of positions and General Schedule pay rates, except that the rate of pay may not exceed the maximum rate of pay for GS-15 under the General Schedule.

(2) Upon the request of the chairman of the commission, the head of any department or agency of the Federal Government may detail, without reimbursement, any personnel of the department or agency to the commission to assist in carrying out its duties. The detail of an employee shall be without interruption or loss of civil service status or privilege.


The commission shall terminate 30 days after the date on which the commission submits a final report.


There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).