Thomas curmudg 2011-08-12 19:26:12
Article & Essay: Bush Obstructs Investigation Into 9-11 Attack
Withholding funding and documentation, the Bush Administration is the
major roadblock for the 9-11 Commission. Why?
By Frederick Sweet
President George W. Bush is obstructing the investigation of the 9-11
terrorist attack against the United States. Ever since the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also called the
9-11 Commission, had been set up to investigate the biggest crime of the
twenty-first century, Bush and his administration have kept getting in
The commission, established in November 2002, has the power to subpoena
witnesses and has been granted all the necessary security clearances to
review the documents requested by it. Officials said in early July that
it may request interviews with President Bush and former president Bill
Clinton, among other top officials.
When Bush signed the legislation creating the panel, he declared ”hope
that the commission will act quickly and issue its report prior to the
18-month deadline.” The White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan insisted
that the president ”is dedicated to cooperation with the 9-11
Commission and has directed that the administration cooperate.”
But New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer recently accused the
Bush administration of intentionally impeding the probe for political
reasons. The Senator called for an independent investigation of the
matter, including whether witnesses have been intimidated. The Bush
administration dismisses Schumer’s charges.
White House denies funding to Commission
Bush’s obstruction of the investigation began coming into focus last
March when Time Magazine reported that the White House brushed off a
request made by the 9-11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, the Republican
former governor of New Jersey, to boost his budget by $11 million. Kean
had sought the funding as part of the $75 billion supplemental spending
bill that the president had just requested to pay for the war with Iraq.
Bush’s refusal to increase the commission’s budget frustrated and
angered a number of the members on the 9-11 panel.
The White House had chosen Kean to lead the investigation, but only
after its first choice, Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of
state, resigned from the post rather than release a list of clients of
his consulting firm. Former congressman Lee Hamilton, the panel’s top
Democrat, was named vice chairman of the commission by Congressional
Kean and Hamilton had requested additional funding in a letter to the
Bush administration in March 2003. The money was to pay for a staff of
about sixty and their expenses. Kean had plannned to field a separate
task force for each of nine areas that the Commission is required to
investigate according to the law that had established it.
The 9-11 Commission has a May 2004 deadline to complete its work. But it
will spend the $3 million it was originally allocated around August 2003
— if it doesn’t get the requested supplement.
“We hope that this request will be included in the supplemental
charge of intelligence community budgeting. The request has been
endorsed by the entire bipartisan 9-11 Commission at a recent meeting.
In denying the request, the White House perplexed members of the
commission. “This is very counterproductive if the White House’s
intention is to prevent the commission from being politicized, because
it will look like they have something to hide,” said a Republican member
of the commission.
Bush’s roadblocks thwart 9-11 Commission, angers victims’ families
In the first week of July, the Boston Globe reported that the 9-11
Commission expressed concern that the congressionally mandated panel is
at risk of missing its final report deadline of May 2004 unless the Bush
administration acts swiftly to expand its level of cooperation.
Without greater cooperation, Kean said, ”we cannot do the job we are
supposed to do.” The panel provided a report card on the 16 federal
agencies covered by its inquiry, describing only the State Department as
being fully cooperative, and the FBI as having improved its performance.
Keane and Hamilton told reporters that only recently had the
administration shown any willingness to provide the necessary
information, including transcripts of interrogations of Al Qaeda
detainees and some internal National Security Council documents. But
much more is required, they said, for the commission’s staff of 60
people to accomplish their job on time.
The Commission complained that the Bush administration had failed to
turn over key documents and information it needed to complete a report
on its findings. But June and July were not the first time their
investigation had been thwarted by the Bush government. The commission
cited other, similar roadblocks to their investigation which must meet a
The White House has placed conditions on access to and usage of some
documents, and such disagreements have yet to be resolved. The CIA,
which failed to effectively predict the Al Qaeda threat, has been slow
to provide documents on management and budget issues from before the
Sept. 11 attacks.
Problems with the Department of Defense were ”particularly serious.”
The commission’s six-month progress report noted that requests relating
to the North American Air Defense Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff
have been met with considerable delays.
No doubt, if the 9-11 Commission’s report — addressing what led to the
attacks with airliners that killed more than 3,000 people and how to
prevent future acts of terror — is not finished by mid 2004, its delay
will become a presidential election issue.
One 9-11 Commissioner complained, ”The Department of Homeland Security
has been unhelpful. If we don’t get these issues resolved, the public is
not going to have the report it deserves.”
Attorney Genreral John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has also been a
source of frustration for the commission. The Commission objects to the
department’s insistence that an official accompany employees being
interviewed by the commission. ”It’s some intimidation . . . to have
someone sitting behind you,” Kean said.
Kean and Hamilton charged the Justice Department was behind a directive
barring intelligence officials from being interviewed by the panel
without the presence of agency colleagues. At a recent news conference,
described the presence of “minders” at the interviews as a form of
intimidation. “I think the commission feels unanimously that it’s some
intimidation to have somebody sitting behind you all the time who you
either work for or works for your agency,” he said. “You might get less
testimony than you would [otherwise].”
Relatives of those killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon expressed outrage at Bush hindering the investigation.
”I am going to assume the White House is stonewalling the
investigation,” said Stephen Push, director of Families of September 11.
”How do you not question the government?” asked Mindy Kleinberg of
September 11 Advocates, whose husband, Allan, perished in the World
The 9-11 Commission’s requests for documents related to the pending case
against Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged ”20th hijacker” who was
arrested in Minneapolis before the attacks, have so far been ignored.
Kean said discussions were underway to determine how the commission
could access what are considered some of the most important clues to
what the government may have known before the terrorist attacks without
jeopardizing any trial.
Kleinberg said she believes that the Moussaoui dossier is important and
that the 9-11 Commission must have access to it to do a sufficient job
— even if it means risking the government’s case.
”I would rather see the safety of the nation put forth rather than
prosecuting one potential terrorist,” she said.