The 9/11 Commission Process



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A Citizens’ Critique:

The 9/11 Commission Process




9/11 CitizensWatch

P.O. Box 772

Washington, DC 20044

citizenswatch@starpower.net

www.911citizenswatch.org
A Citizens’ Critique


Commission weaknesses:
Families and public push for an investigation

Comparison to earlier investigations

The Joint Inquiry and “intelligence failure”

PL 107-306 – The Commission Legislation

Obstacles, limited time and funding

Obstruction from White House and executive agencies

Conflicts of interest:

Chairman Thomas Kean

Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton

Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste

Commissioner Jamie Gorelick

Commissioner James R. Thompson

Commissioner Fred F. Fielding


Executive Director, Phillip Zelikow

Senior Counsel, Dietrich Snell




Flawed premises:
Procedures:
Presidential testimony

Lack of transparency

Public hearings and alternate witnesses

Lack of accountability

Bush administration secrecy

Evidence destroyed, concealed

Release of evidence
Credibility and public acceptance:
Congressional oversight

Assumptions and conclusions

Investigative teams

Unasked and unanswered questions
Omissions and Contradictions:
Historical context

Afghanistan, Carter and Brezezinksi

The Roots of Al-Qaeda

Suspects and plot

Foreknowledge and Forewarnings
Intelligence failure” or breach of procedure?:
John O’Neill

Planes as weapons threat and White House response, caught unawares?

NORAD/FAA Response

PNAC and New Pearl Harbor

Strategy of tension

Anthrax attacks
Commission policy recommendations:
Centralization of intelligence functions, White House “czar”

Foreign and Domestic Policy


Conclusions:
APPENDICES (with author’s permission):
A - Daniel Alcorn, Esq., on secrecy: Why Not Consider Living Up to Our Principles?
B - Peter Dale Scott, Ph.D. FBI: 9/11 Commission Misses FBI's Embarrassing Al Qaeda Dealings

C - Len Bracken on strategy of tension: Notes On The Strategy of Tension



D – Kyle Hence on insider trading: Making a Killing: A Glimpse of Globalization's Shadow Financial Network and its Defenders

Acknowledgements: We want to acknowledge the research, work and assistance we have drawn on and received from researchers John Judge, Kyle Hence, William Kelly, Nafeez Amed, Khalid Rosenbaum, Peter Dale Scott, Len Bracken, Paul Thompson, David Ratcliffe, Wayne Madsen, Ralph Schoenmann, Mike Ruppert, Michael Kane, and the larger body of work of many independents who make up the broader 9/11 Truth movement.

A Citizens’ Critique
In the wake of the attacks of September 11th, 2001, independent researchers, former military and intelligence officers, families of victims, certain members of Congress and other citizens began to address the unanswered questions about the events. Who? Why? How?
We live simultaneously in an Information Age and an Age of Secrecy. The same technology that can invade our privacy, spread propaganda and create surveillance from outer space is also freeing the flow of information and adding to democratic communication. The Internet has become a source of almost instant alternative views and conflicting data following any major event. Cell phones have put us in touch with each other in the most harrowing situations and made witnesses and participants of all of us.
Researchers using the internet formed networks, shared articles and information from around the world, discovered original research and published materials on a range of related topics, and created an interactive site that led to an exhaustive timeline of the history and events surrounding 9/11 (see: www.cooperativeresearch.org).

Commission weaknesses:
Families and public push for an investigation

Families of victims and others began to call for an independent investigation by a special Presidential Commission or by Congress, but the Bush administration resisted it for over a year, citing the need to put all available resources and attention into the “war on terror”. Citizens groups and victims called for answers. The families pressed the White House vigorously until they finally conceded to a bi-partisan Congressional panel, with a chairman chosen by the President. Thus, it was primarily because of the families of the victims of 9/11 that any effort was made to investigate the attacks. The administration and the various federal and military agencies involved failed to initiate the most basic sorts of inquiries or disciplinary actions. This long delay hurt the investigation, allowing critical evidence to be destroyed and witnesses and leads to be lost.


Comparison to earlier investigations

“On the one hand, victims of the violence demand to know the details of the deaths of their loved ones, and society at large demands "the truth," on the theory that knowledge will contribute to accountability, and future violence will be prevented. On the other hand, there are those who wish to keep such secrets in their Pandora's Box. A commission is usually established as a compromise between secrecy and openness.”



(9/11 Panel: America's Truth Commission, Commentary, Amy Ross, Pacific News Service, Apr 06, 2004)
Investigations into past disasters and attacks such as Pearl Harbor, the Titanic, the assassination of President Kennedy and the Shuttle Challenger explosion were established in less than 10 days, with sufficient budgets and time periods. After 411 days, a National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was formed by legislation that both limited its lifetime and sorely under-funded it. Initial funding for the Commission of $3 million had to be boosted to $12 million, but it was still inadequate to the task. Subsequent legislation extended both time and funding, but many areas of concern have yet to be addressed when the Commission ends its mandate at the end of July.
Pearl Harbor Inquiries – Nine separate investigations followed between 1941-1946, the earliest hampered by the requirements to preserve wartime secrecy. The first inquiry was led by Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts, which found, in a report published only 47 days after the attack, that Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Army Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short were unprepared, despite a warning from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold R. Start of rumors of a Japanese plan to make a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Roberts Commission accused both Kimmel and Short of dereliction of duty, but court martial proceedings were put off and both officers retired from active duty.
After the war, the Democratic controlled Congress named a bipartisan “Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack,” and Truman ordered all government agencies to fully cooperate, with public hearings were held in November 1945. Their report was not unanimous. The majority concluded, “The commanders in Hawaii were clearly and unmistakably warned of war with Japan. They were given orders and possessed information that the entire Pacific area was fraught with danger. They failed to carry out these orders and to discharge their basic and ultimate responsibilities.”
The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, also known as the Warren Commission after Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, was conducted primarily behind closed doors, blamed the murder on a lone assassin, failed to identify those actually responsible, and issued a report that is rejected by 80% of the American people.
Additional official inquiries by the Church Intelligence Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) developed additional witnesses, documents and evidence of conspiracy, and issued reports, but then locked most of their records away at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This continued and increased the American public’s distrust of government, a trend that began with the November, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.
In an attempt to reverse this trend and re-establish the public’s faith and trust in government, the JFK Assassinations Records Act of 1992 was passed, establishing the temporary Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) and the JFK Assassinations Records Collection at the NARA, opening most of the government’s records on the assassination to the public.
Unlike Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy Assassination, both of which were followed quickly by official investigations and reports, the events of September 11th 2001 and the government’s response to those events were not officially independently investigated until the House-Senate Joint Inquiry report was published in December 2002, and the Congress voted to establish the bipartisan 9-11 Commission on July 25, 2002.

(The 9/11 Investigations –Public Affairs Reports, NY, 2004)


The investigation into the deaths of 9 astronauts on the space Shuttle Challenger was funded at a level of $55 million dollars and lasted for a longer period that the 9/11 Commission study into over 3,000 deaths.
Unlike South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission and similar efforts to address crimes against humanity in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, the 9/11 Commission is not happening as a result of a regime change
The Joint Inquiry and “intelligence failure”

A Joint Inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees had a limited focus on “intelligence failures” in relation to 9/11. The report released to the 9/11 families lacked an “errata” that laid out their recommendations. Many of these recommendations were clearly adopted by the 9/11 Commission in its work.


The report was also kept secret from December 20, 2002 while the White House edited and redacted it for public release in June 2003. Senator Max Cleland noted that the delayed timing of the release until after the incursion into Iraq may have related to the report’s conclusions about faulty intelligence assessments about Iraq, which might have challenged the administration’s stated reasons for going into the war.
Co-Chairman Senator Bob Graham noted that “The administration has returned to us a version of our final report which strips out in their entirety two key sections and all but eliminates a third key section. There has been less redaction of the balance of the report, but it is my feeling that still more of the report could be made available to the American people.” (Graham’s Statement on 9/11 Report, May 30, 2003). One section was missing 28 pages, concerning the role of “foreign countries” in the attacks. Senator Bob Graham hinted that Saudi Arabia was one of those mentioned, although the 9/11 Commission recently denied any Saudi involvement in the plot.
The brief and largely unsubstantiated case made in the Joint Inquiry Report concerning Osama bin Laden’s involvement in events ranging from the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 to the attacks of September 11th marked an ongoing failure to clearly identify the source of the crimes carried out that day. CIA Director Tenet testified that “there is a common thread” that links the attacks, through Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has yet to be prosecuted. (Joint Inquiry Report, December 2002, pp.128-130). A “white paper” promised early on by Colin Powell to provide similar proof of guilt never materialized. And the portion of the Joint Inquiry report that suggests the involvement of other countries is still classified. This lack of compelling evidence reduced President Bush’s call for a “Wanted Dead or Alive” response to little more than posse justice, allowing execution without a trial.
The families of the victims who died in the planes, streets and buildings that day continued to demand to know who was responsible for the plot and who was accountable for the failure to prevent it. Citizens began to compile information and data, critically examine the official story, and communicate the results of their independent research. Accounts in the international press and academic books and journals were markedly different than those in the mainstream American press. In the face of increasing silence and secrecy on the part of the government and opposition to any official public investigation, concerned citizens and aggrieved families began to clamor for an independent review of the facts and an assessment of how the plot succeeded. A relatively small group of determined family victims gained Congressional support, demanded an audience at the White House and forced the issue.
PL 107-306 – The Commission Legislation

In response to the public pressure, and against the wishes of the Bush administration, Congress set up a national commission under Public Law 107-306, the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2003 dated November 27, 2002. Appointment of its members was required by December 15, 2002, but the work of the full Commission and staff did not begin until many months later when secure office space and security clearances were completed.


The Commission on Terrorist Acts Upon the United States was given a broad mandate, to assess the nature and source of terrorist attacks on the US, including but not limited to September 11th, 2001, and to base national policy and response recommendations on their findings. The law states in Section 602 that “purpose(s) of the Commission are to – (1) examine and report upon the facts and causes relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, occurring at the World Trade Center in New York, New York, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Virginia.” But also notes that the Commission should “(3) build upon the investigations of other…(B) executive branch, congressional, or independent commission investigations into the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, other terrorist attacks, and terrorism generally.”
The Commission was also tasked to “Sec. 601(B)(4) make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, and the extent of the United States’ preparedness for, and immediate response to, the attacks” and to “investigate and report to the President and Congress on its findings, conclusions and recommendations for corrective measures that can be taken to prevent acts of terrorism.” The commission chairman, Governor Kean stated publicly at their first hearing that they intended to “leave no stone unturned” and to “go wherever the truth takes us.” At the same time the commissioners reiterated their intention to avoid “naming names” or “pointing fingers” of blame at anyone responsible for “failures” in security procedures. They did not want to conduct a “witch hunt.”
However, the victims’ families and citizen groups were urging organizational and individual accountability and policies that would not reward that failure. Some families foreswore a compensation fund that prohibited them from bringing civil damage suits against agencies or individuals, and instead initiated suits against Saudi Arabia, the airlines and the Bush administration.
Obstacles, limited time and funding

As the Commission approached its initial deadline of May 27, 2003 it was clear they would not complete a thorough investigation. The Commission requested an extension until January 2005, which was opposed by Senator Daschle, hoping that a report would be out before the election, just as the earlier Warren Report was rushed to release before the 1964 election. Families pushed for an extension of time, calling on Congress to intervene. They gave the following reasons:


1. The commission canceled vital public hearings, “which serve to restore confidence in a government that was made to look weak and inadequate by the events of 9/11.”

2. The commission needs to release a fully classified Final Report – the production which requires more time and preparation…In short, an unclassified Final Report will be watered down, benign, and secretive. In order for the American people to ‘know what they don’t know’ – know what is being kept a secret – we must be able to see the visible blackened redactions that can only be made on a classified Final Report. Anyone questioning the power in such visible redactions need only recall the 28 blank pages regarding foreign government sponsorship of terrorism in the Joint Inquiry’s Final Report released last summer.”

3. The issue of the PDBs.

4. The commission is turning away valuable, vital, relevant information regarding 9/11 because of time constraints. With all the whistleblowers coming forward, they need more than two months to fully investigate these claims.”

5. An extension of 2 months places this commission in the middle of politics. To do that

is an insult to the dead."

(Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding Their Request For An Extension to January 2005 – Jan. 29, 2004).


Congress compromised and set a new deadline for July 26, adding only two months time.
Obstruction from White House and executive agencies

Even after the inception of the Commission, the White House and several key government agencies continued to obstruct access of the Commission members to relevant documents and testimony from past investigations and operations prior to 9/11. Commission Tim Roemer complained that the Commission was not being given access to classified and redacted portions of the Joint Inquiry report and their collected evidence, including transcripts of hearings he had attended. The Commission chairs complained about “foot-dragging” by the administration and other agencies. Eventually subpoenas were issued for documents to three agencies, and they reportedly complied.


The Commission had to use subpoena power to get complete access to NORAD, DOJ, NSA, Pentagon and FAA documents, as well as New York City records. One special area of contention centered on access to the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefings (PDB). The White House was not willing to reveal these extensively classified documents to the Commission. Finally, a compromise was reached, with certain members of the Commission selected to see the whole record and to take notes to present to other members, after White House vetting. A portion of the highly classified briefing was finally released to the public, titled “Osama bin Laden Determined to Attack in the US”. Earlier public statements by White House officials relating to the report had omitted the word “in”.
These obstructions created additional delays in an already tight schedule for the Commission. Max Cleland noted “It’s obvious that the White House wants to run out the clock here…we’re still in negotiations with some assistant White House counsel about getting these documents – it’s disgusting.” (NEW YORK TIMES 10/26/03)
Compromises with executive agencies and White House

"A majority of the commission has agreed to a bad deal," invoking the sorry history of the Warren Commission. "It is a national scandal... the Warren Commission blew it. I'm not going to be part of that. I'm not going to be part of looking at information only partially. I'm not going to be part of just coming to quick conclusions. I'm not going to be part of political pressure to do this or not do that..." (Commissioner Max Cleland quoted in New York Times 10/26/03)


At critical junctures, the Commission failed to use its legitimate powers, favoring an approach of negotiation and bargaining that struck the families and watchdog groups as compromising their independence and their work. The White House required that decisions to subpoena documents be decided by 6 votes, for instance, and that all requests for executive agency documents be requested through the Justice Department. Commissioner Cleland also complained that the counselor to the Attorney General assigned as the liaison was functioning as a “gatekeeper” and “cherry-picking” documents. (“White House Hurdles Delay,” Scot Paltrow, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/8/03). Rep. Charles Schumer sent letters to Inspector Generals at DOJ and the Pentagon complaining that they were “overdue in producing records” from NORAD, JCS, CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security who have been “slow in producing documents” which could only adversely affect the investigation. (Press release from Schumer’s office 7/9/03).
These issues arose from the earliest public hearings where sworn testimony from officials was not required, to a final report that was censored in advance to meet White House criteria. Many executive agencies refused or delayed in turning over sensitive documents. Although they had the power to subpoena documents, it was used sparingly.
In addition, key administration witnesses sought by the Commission, including President Bush and Vice President Cheney resisted testifying in private and in public. 9/11 CitizensWatch joined the families in calling for current and former administration leaders, as well as National Security Director Condaleeza Rice, to testify under oath and in public. Rice did so, on the condition that the Commission could not ask any other cabinet-level official to appear, and the Commission acceded.
Not a single executive branch official or federal agency employee was issued a subpoena to testify, though several resisted. After long periods of foot-dragging the agencies reportedly complied, but only after public exposure and commentary. Commission reluctance to hold individuals responsible for their perceived failures meant that key testimony was never required and that needed reforms or restructuring, discipline or demotion still remain unaddressed.
The Commission accepted a deal to radically limit their access to the White House documents detailing just what high-level administration officials knew in advance of the attacks. The Presidential Daily Briefings or PDBs included "BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S." (dated Aug. 6, 2001) and warned of imminent hijackings. The only two delegates of the Commission were to be allowed to see pre-edited versions of these documents: Executive Director Philip and Commissioner Jamie Gorelick. The other commissioners would have to rely on Zelikow and Gorelick, report back to them, based on their notes, which the White House would also be allowed to redact. Commissioners Max Cleland and Tim Roemer both objected to the deal.
Eventually, a second compromise was worked out, letting additional Commission members see other selected PDBs from earlier months. Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive argued that PDB’s are not as sensitive as claimed and that several have been released publicly from President Johnson’s term in office. (Slate, MSN.com 3/22/04).
Hoping to meet a recently extended deadline of July 26, Commissioner Kean revealed that draft chapters of the report were being sent in advance to the White House for vetting, and were carefully crafted to avoid raising security and classification concerns. In addition a great deal of effort was made to get a bipartisan consensus on the conclusions and recommendations of the report. This effectively made the White House into co-authors of the report, and will conceal the extent to which portions and topics of a truly independent report would have been censored. Unlike the Joint Inquiry report, there will be no gaps or holes in the Commission’s report, nor the hint that anything remains to be revealed.



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