25th September 10:45
ot can you say cover up???
Bush administration stonewalls: 9/11 panel says U.S. agencies slow its
Posted on Wednesday, July 09 @ 10:17:34 EDT
By Philip Shenon, New York Times
WASHINGTON - The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror
attacks said today that its work was being hampered by the failure of
executive branch agencies, especially the Pentagon and the Justice
Department, to respond quickly to requests for do***ents and testimony.
The panel also said the failure of the Bush administration to allow
officials to be interviewed without the presence of government colleagues
could impede its investigation, with the commission's chairman suggesting
today that the situation amounted to "intimidation" of the witnesses.
In what they acknowledged was an effort to bring public pressure on the
White House to meet the panel's demands for classified information, the
commission's Republican chairman and Democratic vice chairman released a
statement, declaring that they had received only a small part of the
millions of sensitive government do***ents they have requested from the
While praising President Bush and top aides for their personal commitment to
the panel's work, the commission's leaders - the chairman, Thomas H. Kean,
the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Lee H. Hamilton, the
former Democratic member of the House from Indiana - said that federal
agencies under Mr. Bush's control were not cooperating quickly or fully.
"The administration underestimated the scale of the commission's work and
the full breadth of support required," they said. "The coming weeks will
determine whether we will be able to do our job within the time allotted.
The task in front of us is monumental."
Claire Buchan, a White House spokeswoman, said today in response to the
statement from the panel, known formally as the National Commission on
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: "The president is committed to
ensuring that the commission has all the information it needs. The president
has directed federal agencies to cooperate and to do so quickly."
Under the law creating the bipartisan, 10-member panel last year, the
commission, which met for the first time in January, is required to complete
its investigation by next May. "While thousands of do***ents are flowing
in - some in boxes and some digitized - most of the do***ents we need are
still to come," the statement said. "Time is slipping by."
The criticism today from Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton clearly took senior
administration officials by surprise and brought a fresh round of attacks on
the White House from Congressional Democrats who have said that the
administration is trying to stonewall a politically damaging inquiry.
Although the White House had initially opposed the creation of an
independent commission to investigate intelligence and law-enforcement
failures before the 2001 terrorist strikes, the administration eventually
came around to support the move, and it has repeatedly pledged full
The White House chose Mr. Kean to lead the investigation 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. Mr.
Hamilton was named vice chairman by Congressional Democrats after their
first choice, George J. Mitchell, the former Senate Democratic majority
leader, resigned when questions were raised about similar conflicts of
In their statement, Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton said that the "problems that
have arisen so far with the Department of Defense are becoming particularly
serious." They noted that the Pentagon had not responded to a series of
requests for evidence from several Defense Department agencies, including
the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the North American Aerospace Defense Command,
which is responsible for guarding American airspace from terrorist attack.
"Delays are lengthening and agency points of contact have so far been unable
to resolve them," the statement said. "In the last few days, we have been
assured that the department's leaders will address these concerns. We look
forward to seeing the results."
Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton suggested that the Justice Department was behind a
directive barring intelligence officials from being interviewed by the panel
without the presence of agency colleagues.
At a news conference, Mr. Kean 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."
"We would rather interview these people without minders or without agency
people there," he said.
commission's access to evidence and testimony from the case of Zacarias
Moussaoui, the only person facing trial in an American court for conspiring
in the Sept. 11 attacks.
A Defense Department spokeswoman said tonight that the department would have
no immediate response to the criticism.
A Justice Department spokesman, Mark Corallo, said that his department
remained "committed to assisting the commission's important work on behalf
of the United States." Mr. Corallo added, however, that "assembling the
enormous amount of information requested takes significant manpower and time
He defended the administration's requirement that witnesses be present when
some executive branch officials are interviewed by the panel. "In any
investigation in which federal employees are interviewed, it is standard
practice to have another agency representative present for the benefit of
the witnesses and to help facilitate the investigation," he said.
Although their intent today was clearly to create discomfort at the White
House, Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton said repeatedly that they were optimistic
that the panel could complete its work on time and that it would offer the
most complete account available of the events that led to the terrorist
By choice, I saw a different war than most Americans. It was a war that I
still believe was illegal, immoral and wrong. It was a war that our leaders
had to justify with lies and crude propaganda. It was a war without glory,
Randolph T. Holhut