Three more US soldiers died in Iraq over night. For
Washington Post: The White House, already embroiled in
a public fight over the deadline for an independent
commission's investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks, is refusing to give the panel notes on
presidential briefing papers taken by some of its own
members, officials said this week.
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White House Holding Notes Taken by 9/11 Commission Panel May Subpoena Its Summaries of Bush Briefings
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 31, 2004; Page A02
The White House, already embroiled in a public fight
over the deadline for an independent commission's
investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is
refusing to give the panel notes on presidential
briefing papers taken by some of its own members,
officials said this week.
The standoff has prompted the 10-member commission to
consider issuing subpoenas for the notes and has
further soured relations between the Bush
administration and the bipartisan panel, according to
sources familiar with the issue. Lack of access to the
materials would mean that the information they contain
could not be included in a final report about the
attacks, several officials said.
"We're having discussions on this almost hourly or at
least daily," said the commission's vice chairman Lee
H. Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from
Indiana. "We retain all of our rights to gain the
access we need. . . . This is a priority item for us
to resolve, and we are working to resolve it."
The disagreement is the latest obstacle to face the
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, which is racing to complete its work by
a May 27 deadline after months of fighting over access
to government documents. The commission has asked that
the deadline be pushed back at least two months, but
the White House and leading congressional Republicans
oppose that idea.
Such a postponement would mean releasing the
potentially damaging commission report on July 26, in
the middle of the presidential campaign. Legislation
to be introduced next week in the Senate would extend
the commission's deadline until next January, avoiding
the election altogether.
The latest dispute stems from an agreement reached in
November that allowed a four-member team from the
commission to examine highly classified documents
known as the President's Daily Brief (PDB), including
a controversial August 2001 memo that discusses the
possibility of airline hijackings by al Qaeda
terrorists. The deal allowed the team -- made up of
three commission members and Executive Director Philip
D. Zelikow -- to take notes on the materials that
would be passed along to the rest of the commission,
but only after the White House gave its approval.
The team completed its work several weeks ago but has
been unable to reach an agreement with the White House
on how to share its summaries with the seven
commission members who were not privy to the material,
The standoff has prompted commission members to
discuss using subpoenas to obtain either the summaries
or the entire catalogue of President's Daily Briefs,
several sources said.
Democratic commission member Timothy J. Roemer, a
former Indiana congressman, said that "the convoluted
and tortuous process set up by the White House has
bottlenecked. If it's not resolved within the next few
days, I believe we have to pursue other options."
Commission member Jamie S. Gorelick, a deputy attorney
general during the Clinton administration, who served
on the four-person review team, declined to comment on
the details of the impasse but said negotiations are
"All I can say is that we have followed the procedure
that we contemplated and we are discussing with the
White House whether that can be made to work for us,"
Gorelick said. "We are trying to ensure that we get
the information we need, while at the same time
respecting the needs and desires of the White House. .
. . We have not been able yet to transmit [PDB
summaries] to the whole commission."
White House officials declined to comment on the
details of the negotiations, or to say why
administration lawyers have objected to releasing the
review team's notes.
"The administration has worked closely with the
commission, providing unprecedented access to
information and documents," said White House
spokeswoman Erin Healy. "We continue to have
discussions on a number of issues as the process moves
forward, and we will continue to do so in a spirit of
But Kristen Breitweiser, widow of World Trade Center
victim Ronald Breitweiser and a member of a group of
victims' families who monitor the commission's work,
called the White House position "unacceptable." She
said the panel should subpoena the documents it needs.
"The White House needs to stop being all talk and no
action," Breitweiser said. "They say they're
cooperating. It's time to show that."
After months of delays last fall, the commission
issued subpoenas for documents from the Pentagon, the
Federal Aviation Administration and the city of New
York, eventually working out agreements in all three
cases. The panel also threatened to subpoena the White
House over the PDB issue, but settled on the
compromise because officials said they did not want to
get bogged down in a court battle.
The White House indicated at the time that it would
consider asserting that the PDB documents were covered
by executive privilege and not subject to review by