Greetings at the end of another remarkable week for Voices of September 11 th. Once again, we were in Washington to attend two very important hearings of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project (PDP). Please see our summary of Monday’s sobering panel, on the topic of Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction, in the PDP update below. We will full coverage of Tuesday’s panel on Homeland Security Challenges in our July 8 issue.
A very strong showing of VOICES members, including my husband Frank, two sons, Wes and Chris, and my mother and sister, attended a reception Monday evening at the Russian Embassy in Washington. The event was the formal conclusion of VOICES’ Building Bridges Project initiative to send over 350 teddy bears to families of the victims of the attack on Beslan School #1 in Beslan, Russia. The bears were graciously accepted by the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Yuri V. Ushakov, and will be distributed to the families in time for the first anniversary of the attack on September 1. A picture with Ambassador Ushakov and one of the large bears to be used in the Beslan classrooms is at left. VOICES was given a tour of the beautiful Embassy before hearing remarks by Ambassador Ushakov, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Chief-of-Staff Clarine Nardi Riddle and myself. Sen. Lieberman was scheduled to attend, but could not because of the passing of his mother on Sunday. His office was integral in planning this event with the embassy, and we offer our thanks for their hard work along with condolences for Sen. Lieberman’s loss. We would like to thank the Russian Ambassador and Embassy staff for hosting such a congenial reception, and all of you who helped make this initiative possible. We will keep you updated as the bears move to their new homes in Beslan, and hope this small gesture will open up more opportunities to improve relations between our two great nations. The event was mentioned in an article by the Russian News Agency ITAR-TASS on Tuesday.
Finally, I am sure all of you are excited, as we are at VOICES, to share the July 4 holiday with your friends and family. July 4 is a day to celebrate our proud American heritage and the many men and women who have made our nation great. But it can be a time of sadness when memories of holidays shared with our departed loved ones come flooding back. Honor them by holding your families especially tight this holiday, and cherishing every minute you have to make new memories. God bless America, and all of you.
Mary Fetchet and the VOICES Staff
The 9/11 Public Discourse Project hosted two hearings this week in Washington to discuss the many security threats that still face our country nearly 4 years after the attacks of September 11. The first, on Monday, focused on the possibility that terrorists could attack the homeland with WMDs, including nuclear weapons. The panel began with a frank assessment of our vulnerabilities by former Senator Sam Nunn, a longtime leader of Congressional efforts to counter nuclear proliferation who advocates stronger action to keep loose nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Nunn expressed dissatisfaction with the scope and the pace of efforts by the United States and Russia to ensure that nuclear material is secured. This material includes operational nuclear weapons, parts to make a bomb, and spent radioactive fuel that could be used for a deadly ‘dirty’ bomb, in which conventional explosives are used to spread radioactivity across a wide area. He said turf battles and complacency in Washington and Moscow have dangerously hamstrung counter proliferation given Al-Qaeda’s professed goal to obtain a nuclear device and use it on the United States or one of our allies.
“From my perspective, the terrorists are racing and we are somewhere between a walk and a crawl," said Nunn, currently the head of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based group focused on combating the nuclear menace before it hits our shores. Nunn said part of the NTI’s job is to educate the American people on the real possibility of an attack that could take hundreds of thousands of lives and devastate the economy. To raise awareness, the NTI has produced a film showing various scenarios where al-Qaeda obtains a weapon and plots to attack America. The NTI is offering DVDs Thompson of the film, starring former Senator Fred Dalton Thompson, at no cost in an effort to reach as many Americans as possible. VOICES has already ordered our copy, and we encourage each one of you to visit the NTI’s website, www.lastbestchance.org, to obtain more information on counter proliferation and order your copy of the free DVD. In depth coverage of the nuclear issue can be found on a website regarding the work Fmr. Sen. Nunn and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) have done to keep nukes out of terrorists’ hands, www.nunn-lugar.com.
Other members of the panel joined Nunn in calling on the government to step up its efforts to fight nuclear terrorism, and agreed that the best way to do so is securing the finite amount of nuclear material that currently exists before terrorists can obtain it through theft or bribery. Once the terrorists have a weapon, the panelists warned, it will become nearly impossible to detect it before they have a chance to use it. Nunn compared the search for a single device, which could fit in a small cargo container or the back of an SUV, to the search for a needle in a haystack. Also, given the magnitude of the threat, many said the government needs to do much more to keep us safe. "I think we have a war on terrorism. We don't have a war yet on weapons of mass destruction," said panelist Ashton Carter, co-director of the Preventive Defense Project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Panelists also expressed concern that the government was focused on responding to past incidents of terrorism, especially those involving airplanes, rather than anticipating the dangers of the future. "We need to have a rational, mature discussion in this country about what our priorities are," said Steven Brill, founder and chairman of the America Prepared Campaign, which he formed to help the public, government and media prepare for terrorist attacks and other emergencies. For more information on their work, please see www.americaprepared.org.
The PDP will not be holding a panel next Monday in honor of the July 4 holiday, so we will bring you a summary in our e-newsletter next Friday of the Tuesday, June 28 panel, on Homeland Security issues including border control, port security and the risks of falling into complacency in the face of grave threats to the homeland.
July 4th Letter by Robin
Flag of Remembrance
and Sherry Kronenfeld
In the aftermath of 9/11, Mindy Kombert and Sherry Kronenfeld took time off from their jobs to focus on the creation of The Flag of
Remembrance, an enormous 20 by 27 foot American flag featuring the
photographs, names, and ages of every victim of 9/11. Their hope was to
create a permanent tribute to the photographs and posters of missing
loved ones scattered throughout New York City in the days and weeks
after 9/11. The Flag was unveiled last year in Chappaqua, NY and was
also on display at VOICES Spring Information Forum this past April. For
more information on the Flag of Remembrance, please visit their website.
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Voices of September 11th (“VOICES”) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting public policy reform for prevention, preparedness and response related to terrorism. VOICES supports and advocates for all those impacted by September 11, 2001 and other terrorist attacks.