Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016



by Margie Burns
American Reporter Washington Correspondent
Washington, D.C.
July 8, 2003
Reporting: Washington
9/11 COMMISSION TELLS OF 'DRAMATIC' FINDINGS, MANY DIFFICULTIES

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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:

  • At the White House, including the National Security Council, many sensitive documents are in the process of coming in, while "many more documents are being requested. Conditions have been imposed ... with respect to our access to and usage of these documents. Our discussions continue."
  • The work of the Central Intelligence Agency, including briefings and "intelligence products," has been furthered by a "strong review group and team of analysts to look back at the pre-9/11 period," whose work has been "invaluable." But the CIA has been "slower" regarding documents requested "on management and resource choices in the pre-9/11 war on terrorism."
  • The FBI, according to the report, "got off to a slow start in responding to the Commission's requests." But the report adds that when Director Mueller became aware of the concerns, he assigned additional staff and agents to help. The report does not state when that awareness occurred.
  • With regard to the Department of Justice, records requested are "overdue, and the Department has not yet been able to resolve important issues related to the Moussaoui case." Also, the DOJ insists that agency representatives sit in while its officials are being interviewed, "and this matter is still under discussion."
  • The "serious" problems with the DoD include lack of compliance with requests - the commission has not received responses to requests relating to NORAD, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Department's historical office. "Delays are lengthening and agency points of contact have so far been unable to resolve them."
  • While the record of cooperation from the departments of State and Treasury and the Securities and Exchange has been good, the departments of Transportation and Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration have yielded mixed results. The DOT and the FAA, according to the report, "have gradually been responsive to the Commission. But we still have some important additional information to obtain from them."
  • The congressional committees have been cooperative, but the materials compiled by the Joint Inquiry have still not been released.
  • Finally, the cooperation of local agencies and private-sector businesses such as the airlines cannot be assessed yet. Kean stated, "We believe the President when he says he is committed to assisting the Commission," but added, "the next few weeks will be crucial. We will need strong support from the White House to insure that we are able to receive the materials we require in sufficient time to meet the statutory deadline."

The commission will issue another interim report in September, 2003. 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 volume 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."

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