July 09, 2003

9/11 Panel: U.S. Hindering Probe

The woods are inching closer to the walls of the
castle...Day after day, week after week, month after
month, and now year after year, I have said over and
over again that there was no intelligence breakdown
pre-9/11. There was plenty of intelligence, and it was
credible enough and specific enough for actions to be
taken that could have significantly impacted the
course of events. There was no intelligence failure,
there was either a failure to comprehend it or an
unwillingness to act upon it at the highest level of
government (i.e. in the Oval Office and the National
Security Council). Likewise, the lies used to
manipulate public opinion about the situation in Iraq
and rationalize unilateral military action are not the
result of an intelligence failure. Nor is the failure
to discover WMDs in Iraq in the aftermath of the
invasion the result of an intelligence failure. This,
too, like 9/11, is largely the result of what seems
like incompetence and negligence (at best) in the
White House and in the office of the Secretary of
Defense. Remember, now more than ever, 2+2=4.


9/11 Panel: U.S. Hindering Probe

By Thomas Frank
Washington Bureau

July 8, 2003, 8:18 PM EDT

Washington -- The leaders of an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks voiced serious concerns Tuesday about federal agencies that were not providing key documents and were requiring witnesses to be interviewed in front of an official from their agency.

The first interim report from the commission probing all aspects of what led to the attacks offered measured but blunt criticism of the Bush administration aimed at prodding but not angering federal agencies.

The report singled out the Defense Department for not responding to various information requests and the Justice Department, which is withholding extensive information about events on Sept. 11, 2001, that also is evidence against Zacarias Moussaoui, who is awaiting trial for allegedly conspiring in the attacks.

Thomas Kean, the Republican-appointed commission chairman and former New Jersey governor, was particularly critical of the practice of having a government "minder" sit in on interviews between the commission staff and government employees, mostly those working for intelligence agencies.

"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," Kean said. "You might get less testimony than you would if the person were there without such a person."

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, the commission vice chairman appointed by the Democratic minority in Congress, said the commission will be "quite firm" in insisting that it can conduct highly sensitive future interviews without a minder. But he said, "The administration has not agreed to that."

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said government officials commonly sit in on interviews between agency employees and investigators, often to help employees understand how their answers might affect ongoing investigations.

"Very often, the person being interviewed may not have all the information that goes into the big mosaic of an investigation," Corallo said. He said the department was trying to figure out how to give the commission access to reports and witnesses from the Moussaoui investigation without compromising national security.

Despite their criticism, Kean and Hamilton struck an encouraging tone, saying they believed many delays in providing information resulted from the volume of requests overwhelming agencies, which have recently added staff to expedite document retrievals.

"I feel really positive about where we are at this moment," Hamilton said.

One exception appeared to be the Defense Department, which has not responded to information requests from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which advises the president on military matters, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which defends U.S. airspace and faces scrutiny for its response to reports of hijacked planes on Sept. 11.

A three-page report from Kean and Hamilton said "problems" with the Pentagon "are becoming particularly serious," although it says department leaders recently vowed to address the concerns.

The report prompted several relatives of Sept. 11 victims who came to Washington Tuesday from the New York area to call for an extension of the May 2004 deadline for the commission's final report. "So far, they haven't gotten cooperation," said Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, N.J., whose husband, Kenneth, was killed in the World Trade Center.

Kean stopped short of asking for more time, but said "coming weeks will determine whether we will be able to do our job within the time alloted."
Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.

Posted by richard at July 9, 2003 02:00 AM