October 31, 2003

Answer the 9/11 families

Palm Beach Post editorial: Now the question turns on the askers: How can anyone block answers to the survivors' and families' questions?


Thursday, October 30
Answer the 9/11 families

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Thursday, October 30, 2003

In words of one syllable, the commission investigating
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needs to know who knew
what and when. "We are looking backward," the panel
said in its latest interim report, "in order to look

That forward look is for ways to prevent more
surprises. President Bush needs this study as much as
anyone, so he shouldn't impede the commission's work.
But he and Chairman Tom Kean, the former New Jersey
governor, exchanged s-words about his files this week.
Mr. Bush said his daily briefing papers are sensitive.
Mr. Kean said he might subpoena them. At issue are
copies of the Presidential Daily Brief, a memo from
the CIA seen by only a handful of White House
officials. Former CIA Director Richard Helms called it
"the most important daily intelligence document in
Washington." Because of its limited distribution, it
can contain matters the CIA doesn't want to reveal
that it's even thinking about.

The White House didn't let the House-Senate
intelligence committee see the briefs. Without knowing
what's in them, though, Mr. Kean's panel can't know
whether Mr. Bush didn't get vital information or had
it and ignored it. It's in Mr. Bush's political as
well as official interest that there be no obvious
gaps in the commission's final report.

At his news conference Tuesday, Mr. Bush seemed to
back off. He said he thinks he can reach a "proper
accord" with commissioners that will "protect the
integrity" of the briefs and then let commission
members see what was in them. He didn't say how. He
had better mean it. He is not the commission's only
audience. Survivors and families of the 9/11 victims
keenly follow its work. In the run-up to war, the
president's spinners asked how anyone could look into
the survivors' eyes and not support attacking Saddam
Hussein. Now the question turns on the askers: How can
anyone block answers to the survivors' and families'

The committee issued a subpoena for Federal Aviation
Administration documents this month, after trying to
talk them out of the agency. It said, though, that
other agencies "significantly improved" their
compliance with its requests since its July interim
report. The commission has a tight May 27 deadline to
make its final report before the elections heat up. It
doesn't have time to dance minuets to get what it
needs to write a comprehensive report of what happened
and how to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Posted by richard at October 31, 2003 07:37 AM