America's War on Terrorism
On September 11, 2001, the United States fell victim to the worst terrorist attack in our history as more than 3000 persons were killed in attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon, and in a thwarted attack that led to a plane crash in Pennsylvania. From his Senate office, Senator Thompson watched with members of his staff as the events unfolded on television.
While the Senate offices were soon evacuated, Senator Thompson returned to the Capitol that night to join a bi-partisan group of senators for a display of unity on the Capitol steps. He later appeared on television with several colleagues to help reassure the American people that their government was functioning and would respond to the attacks.
Speaking on the Senate floor the following day, Senator Thompson said, "If this giant has been sleeping as some say, it has been awakened once again and will not rest until an example is made of those who would murder our innocent citizens and tear at the very fabric of our national existence...America's response in this matter should set a lasting example of what happens to those who unleash bloody attacks, especially on our own soil. The time for carefully measured pinprick responses to terrorists activities has passed."
That weekend, the Senator returned to Tennessee. He traveled from Nashville to Memphis, and then to Knoxville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities, speaking at churches and schools about the events of September 11 and the task ahead. At Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, he said, "We will not cower, we will not hide. When we finish our mourning, we will continue on. And with God's blessing, we will remain the beacon of hope and freedom for the rest of the world."
In the weeks and months since September 11, Senator Thompson has worked in the Senate to support President Bush's war against terrorism. As Ranking Member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, he has participated in hearings covering issues including computer security, homeland defense, aviation security, the economic stimulus package, and the Postal Service's anthrax investigation.
The Aviation Security Act, signed into law by President Bush on November 19, includes Senator Thompson's amendment requiring that those responsible for airport security be held accountable for meeting measurable performance goals, particularly involving the detection of dangerous objects.
"We're changing the basic mind set with regard to measuring airport security performance," Senator Thompson said. "The primary concern of the American people is the bottom line - whether dangerous objects are getting past screeners and whether or not unauthorized individuals are gaining access to secure areas in our airports. That's what we're going to measure from now on, and that's how employee performance will be judged. This is the kind of thing that will help restore confidence in air travel."
In January of 2002, Thompson was part of a bi-partisan group of Senators that traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries involved in the war on terror. While in Afghanistan, the group met with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and members of his Cabinet. They also had the opportunity during the trip to meet with U.S. troops serving in the region.
In February of 2002, it was announced that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, of which Senator Thompson is a member, and the House Intelligence Committee, will hold joint hearings into the events surrounding September 11 and the federal government's response to terrorism.
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