Response to the 9/11 Commission’s
Second Interim Report
October 4, 2003
Access to documents and witnesses
The Second Interim Report includes contradictory statements about White House cooperation. The report indicates that the Commission has received all requested documents, but conversely says that the Commission is negotiating with the White House over “additional sensitive documents” it needs.
- If the Commission is still negotiating, obviously it does not have all the requested documents.
- What evidentiary documents are still outstanding?
We are told that if the President provides the requested documents it will break a precedent of not releasing sensitive documents. When our government failed to prevent the mass murder of three thousand people on American soil on September 11th it also broke a precedent. Our government, including our President, is morally obligated to answer questions about how this attack could have happened.
- For more than two years, the families of the dead and millions of other Americans have been waiting for accountability from our government officials.
- In order to fully understand our nation’s lack of preparedness and response to the attack and to understand other contributing factors, the Commission must have unconditional access to documents and witnesses throughout the government, particularly in the executive branch which makes national security decisions.
- The “unusual arrangements imposed for access to FBI documents” should be detailed for the American public.
Regarding particularly requested missing documents which the Commission expected various agencies to have:
- With only eight months left to complete its investigation and write a report, it is past time for the Commission to use the subpoena power which Congress gave it to get full, unfettered access to all documents and witnesses.
- Subpoena the missing documents and question the head of each agency under oath about the requested documents. Minders When asked about minders by reporters, Chairman Kean admitted that in order to have access to the witnesses, the Commission had to accept the minders. He said the Commission staff believes no one has been intimidated by their presence. Chairman Hamilton, however, added the caveat that it is very difficult to tell when a witness is being intimidated by a minder.
- To preclude any hint of intimidation, no minders should be present during the interviews. This should not be negotiable.
The three public hearings scheduled for the remainder of this year are not investigative in nature. The issues of organization and leadership in our intelligence agencies, emergency preparedness, and FBI reforms and intelligence gathering procedures could be discussed in closed hearings.
- What our government knew, how it acted on that information and exactly what happened on September 11th are critical topics which should be publicly explored in the Commission’s investigation of our government’s failure to prevent the murder of 3000 people.
- It is unacceptable that no public hearings are planned to probe the Executive branch, Congressional oversight, or terrorist funding.
- The public hearing on the Day of September 11th should be held well before its scheduled April, 2004 date. An April hearing about the actions of our government on September 11th will not leave sufficient time to recall witnesses or to explore questions which may arise from that inquiry before the Commission’s May 27th deadline.
- The Commission should hold public hearings this year in which officials from the CIA, FBI, NSC, NSA, INS, DOD and the White House are interviewed under oath.
This investigation was supposed to be hard hitting and transparent. So far it has been neither. Instead it appears that the Commission has acquiesced to every condition imposed by recalcitrant government officials.
Without true interim reports which reveal substantive findings, the Commission’s investigation is opaque. With all findings withheld, no probing or embarrassing questions will be asked prior to the release of a final report.
- Americans should be aware that before its release, the 9/11 Commission’s report will go to the White House for review. Based on what happened with the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Report, it is entirely possible the 9/11 Commission’s report will be withheld for months and ultimately, significant portions will be redacted under the guise of executive privilege and top secret classification.
It is well past time for accountability from the White House and all government agencies whose policies and actions had a bearing on September 11th. We call on the Commission to demonstrate now that it is following its mandate for a full accounting by releasing substantive interim reports and initiating investigative public hearings.