9/11 COMMISSION TELLS OF 'DRAMATIC' FINDINGS, MANY DIFFICULTIES
by Margie Burns
American Reporter Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON, July 8 -- The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has released its first interim teport, saying that the Commission's first six months have produced great progress and will shed "dramatic new light" on America's worst terrorist attacks, but has much more work ahead.
The highly generalized report was issued by the commission's Chair, former New Jersey Republican governor Thomas H. Kean, and Vice Chair, and former congressman and House Intelligence Committee head Lee H. Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat.
Kean and Hamilton repeatedly emphasized that, while the commission has received millions of pages of documents requested from government agencies and others, major problems lie ahead in its mandated pursuit of information before the May 2004 deadline.
In a joint written statement and in question-and-answer with reporters on July 8, both Kean and Hamilton referred to difficulties that jeopardize the commission's ability to meet its deadline. The commissioners have loosely categorized levels of cooperation by government agency, saying the Department of State "has responded helpfully to all requests made so far," while "problems that have arisen so far with the Department of Defense are becoming particularly serious."
Both Kean and Hamilton emphasized the volume of material that has been requested - and partly obtained - by the commission, known informally as the "independent commission" or the "9/11 commission." In answer to questions, Kean said, "I don't think anybody expected the voluminous nature of the requests we put in." Kean added that he hoped agencies would respond to all requests in a timely fashion and reiterated that the Dept. of Defense was particularly slow; as in the written statement, he emphasized doubts that "we can do the task mandated to us without those documents."
Hamilton concurred that the commission has received millions of pages, but that "we've said several times that we thought the response was slow." Sometimes, Hamilton clarified, "the problem is getting the staff resources to examine the documents" obtained, rather than getting the documents themselves, especially with the commission "now beginning to get boxloads of information."
Kean and Hamilton seemed to agree that the commission is now fully resourced, after initial delays and obstacles from the White House and Congressional Republicans. In response to questions, Kean said that there is "no stonewalling" from the White House at present, and that the commission has no plan to subpoena either President Bush or former President Clinton, adding that "we might request to talk to them."
Kean also stated that Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff, has issued a "strong statement" of support from the White House for the commission's work, but he was emphatic that "that help [from the White House] is absolutely essential," a phrase he used more than once. "We of course need more of that [help]." He later mentioned that "President Bush and President Clinton have both assured me of their full cooperation."
The interim report detailed the status of the following agencies:
The commission will issue another interim report in September, 2003. 20 Responding to questions, Kean said that he had learned some things from the material received by the commission, and bluntly answered "yes" when asked whether anything had shed "dramatic new light" on the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2003.
He declined to specify what the dramatic new findings might be.
Both Kean and Hamilton emphasized the voluminousness of the material requested and received by the commission several times, raising a possibility that the commissioners are opening the door for "document dumping" - the obstructionist legal tactic of overwhelming the opposition with material. Neither man would state definitely whether the commission might try to get the mandated deadline of the end of May, 2004, extended.
The commission will hold its third public hearing tomorrow, July 9, 2003, in the Russell Senate Office Building (9:00 a.m., Room 253). The day-long session with three panels will focus on "Terrorism, al-Qaida, and the Muslim World."