Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), former original member of the Homeland Security Committee and leading Congressional advocate for aviation, maritime, chemical, grid, and rail security, released the following statement in commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"As we commemorate the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we remember that the planes which destroyed the World Trade Center towers took off from Boston. The planes carried passengers and crew, families and friends, and the devastation nearly 200 miles south in Manhattan was also a catastrophe for communities across Massachusetts.
"Eleven years ago on September 11, America's greatest strength - our technological might - was turned into a weapon used against us. We are safer today than we were eleven years ago, but unfortunately, significant terrorist threats remain.
"Four years ago, the Democratic Congress passed legislation to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, designating it as our top priority. Since then, the Obama administration has dealt devastating blows to al-Qaeda, with the deaths of Osama bin Laden and the terrorist network's key leaders. Key leaders of al-Qaeda have been brought to justice; still, we must continue to effectively implement the security safeguards put in place in the wake of that terrible day.
"America's aviation, chemical and nuclear sectors are at the top of the target lists of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Whether it is in the air, on the seas, or through cyber-attacks, terrorists will continue trying to invent new ways to kill Americans, damage our economy and strike at our nation. Our vigilance over the past decade has prevented a string of attacks, but we must continue to anticipate the loopholes that today's and future terrorists aim to exploit and move aggressively to close them. Our work to do so remains unfinished in several areas.
"The Department of Homeland Security missed the July 2012 deadline to scan all the maritime cargo transported to our shores, a mandate I authored in the legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Unfortunately, even though the loophole is well known, the risks unacceptable, and the technology and processes available to meet this common-sense mandate, both the Bush and the Obama Administrations have failed to implement my law. I will continue to work with my colleagues to urge the Department to stop its delays and meet the 100 percent scanning mandate consistent with the law.
"The electric grid's vulnerability to attack is one of the single greatest threats to our national security. Despite warnings from defense and national security experts, America's grid remains vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could result in widespread blackouts and cause devastation to our security, economy and health. In the last Congress, I led efforts to craft a bipartisan bill, the GRID Act. This legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, provided the federal government the authority to order needed security upgrades. But in the face of relentless lobbying from the electric utility industry, Republicans have turned their backs on protecting the electricity grid from cyber-attack, one of the most pressing homeland security issues of our time. I commend President Obama's commitment to address our cyber-security vulnerabilities through the issuance of an Executive Order; nevertheless, legislation with requirements -- not mere voluntary measures - will still be needed to fully ensure that the federal government has the necessary authority to protect against cyber-security threats. The threats to our electrical grid from rogue states and terrorists are clear, and the utility industry should be held to the toughest possible security standards.
"The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to finish implementing my law that all cargo on passenger planes be screened for bombs. The Department has ensured that 100 percent of domestic cargo traveling on passenger planes is secured, and has stated that by the end of this year it will meet the mandate for international in-bound air cargo. I look forward to compliance with the 100 percent screening deadline so that this loophole will be closed by year's end.
"A terrorist attack on a chemical facility could wreak devastation for hundreds of miles beyond the point of attack. Since 2004, I have offered legislation to require the use of cost-effective safer chemicals and processes at chemical facilities in order to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack. Republicans and the chemical industry have vigorously opposed these efforts, supporting exemptions for thousands of facilities that contain toxic chemicals from having to comply with even the inadequate law on the books. Despite my efforts in the previous Congress leading House negotiations on comprehensive chemical security legislation that closed the loopholes and gave the federal government the tools it needed to keep these facilities safe, the Senate failed to act, leaving thousands of facilities uncovered by even the meager federal authority that is in place."