White House Accused Of Halting 911 Commission

Published: Sun 13 Oct 2002 01:21 AM
Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
Presented by…
White House Accused Of Halting 911 Commission
EDITOR’S NOTE: In breaking news over the last two days President George Bush has been accused of double speak over the creation of an Independent Commission to investigate the events surrounding the attacks of September 11th 1991. The following reports are from the Washington Post and New York Times where more coverage of these issues can be found.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
Bush Doubted on 9/11 Panel
Lawmakers Say He Doesn't Want New Commission
By Helen Dewar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 12, 2002; Page A06
Angry lawmakers accused the White House yesterday of secretly trying to derail creation of an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks while professing to support the idea. The White House responded by renewing its pledge of support for the proposal and suggesting an agreement was near.
A day after collapse of an announced deal to create the commission, there was little agreement on anything, including causes of the disagreement. The White House said the remaining disputes involve how many votes from commission members would be required to issue subpoenas and who would appoint the chairman. Lawmakers said the issue is whether the White House really wants a commission.
The proposal would create a 10-member commission of private citizens to consider concerns about the nation's readiness to deal with terrorism, including aviation, border security and immigration as well as intelligence capabilities currently under investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees. Its membership would be equally divided between appointees of Republican and Democratic officials.
Negotiators plan to meet again next week, but it was not clear whether the dispute would be resolved in time for final action this year.
Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a news conference to blame what Pelosi called the "invisible hand" of the White House for torpedoing an all-but-final accord on the issue.
"The White House is professing openly to support an independent commission [while] privately they're moving to thwart the commission," Pelosi said.
McCain said senior members of the House and Senate intelligence committees had a written agreement approving the proposal for inclusion in the intelligence authorization bill for this year. But the House Republican leadership weighed in against it and the deal collapsed, he said. It is no secret that "the White House works through the House Republican leadership," McCain said.
"Do you really want to allow this commission to be created?'' Lieberman asked the White House. "And if you don't, why not?"
They were joined by Stephen Push, spokesman for a group representing about 1,300 survivors of Sept. 11 attack victims. He said he believes the White House does not want a commission because it fears what it might find.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer denied that President Bush is trying to sabotage the proposal. "We are very close to getting an agreement on the 9/11 commission, and the president thinks it can and should be done," Fleischer said. He cited two points of disagreement -- subpoenas and the chairmanship -- but said Bush "would be very disappointed if the Congress allowed these issues to keep the agreement from happening."
While lawmakers proposed to allow subpoenas to be issued by five commission members, Bush wants a larger number to ensure bipartisan backing, Fleischer said. "One-party subpoenas are a formula for paralysis," he said.
Also, Fleischer said, with nine of the 10 commission members to be appointed by congressional leaders, Bush wants to appoint the chairman. The lawmakers had proposed presidential appointment of a co-chairman.
McCain described the administration's objections as involving "minutia."
In another complication, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, denied he had signed off on the agreement.
He said more details need to be worked out, including issues involving committee jurisdiction and whether the commission should investigate Congress as well as executive branch agencies. "I want to see an independent commission," Goss said.
Even if the details can't be worked out this year, McCain and Lieberman vowed to continue pushing for the commission next year. "It's going to happen," McCain said.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
2 Senators Say White House Is Thwarting 9/11 Inquiry
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 — Two prominent senators from opposite parties accused the White House today of deliberately sabotaging their efforts to create an independent investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, suggesting that the administration was afraid a commission might turn up embarrassing government mistakes.
"Every bureaucracy in this town is scared to death of an investigation," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. "Remember, no one has really been held accountable. No one has lost their job, no one has been even reprimanded, nothing has happened as a result of Sept. 11. Unless responsibility is assigned, then we can't cure the problem."
Mr. McCain, along with Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said legislation to create a commission might be delayed until at least next year if the White House did not drop its objections to an agreement worked out on Thursday between Congressional Republicans and Democrats.
The White House said today that it supported the commission and simply wanted to limit its subpoena power. But the two senators and other elected officials said the administration seemed to raise a new objection every week, suggesting it wanted to run out the clock on the current Congressional session and delay an inquiry for months.
Senate officials said privately that the White House had raised particular objections to an inquiry into the government's response in the days after Sept. 11, which could call into question the performance of such agencies as the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.
Specifically, they said the administration wanted sharp limits on the scope of an investigation, although Congressional sentiment is clearly in favor of a panel that can investigate any government agency, subpoena administration officials and issue a candid report free of political influence. The Senate voted 90 to 8 last month for such a broad inquiry, a day after the administration reversed course and supported the idea.
The officials also said the White House wanted the commission to wrap up its findings in a year. Members of both parties, including Senators Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, and Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, have said that the commission will need as long as 18 months or two years to complete its work. That would mean the report could come out in the middle of President Bush's re-election campaign.
Families of the victims of the attacks were particularly incensed today that the agreement had been undone by the White House late Thursday after it was announced. Stephen Push, whose wife, Lisa J. Raines, died in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, said the families wanted to learn the truth about whether the attack could have been prevented, but were being stymied by Bush administration officials determined to prevent an outside inquiry.
"We've been talking to the White House for months," Mr. Push said. "They keep saying, `We just have this one little thing to fix.' So we fix that, and they come up with three other things. They're not really negotiating in good faith."
A coalition of four groups of families issued a statement today saying they could not understand why the administration said it supported an investigation "while apparently doing everything in its power to prevent the commission from being established."
Mr. Lieberman — who on Thursday joined with Mr. McCain in supporting President Bush's resolution on Iraq — wondered openly what the administration was trying to hide.
"The question we pose to the White House today is, Do you really want to allow this commission to be created?" Mr. Lieberman asked. "And if you don't, why not?"
Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Bush still hoped that Congress would create the commission before it left town in a week or so. But Mr. Fleischer said the administration felt strongly that members appointed by one party on the commission should not be able to issue subpoenas on their own without bipartisan support. Doing otherwise, he said, is a formula for "paralysis and politics."
The administration also believes it should be allowed to appoint the chairman of the panel, Mr. Fleischer said, because Congress will choose the other nine members. The bipartisan agreement reached on Thursday calls for a panel of 10 nationally recognized private citizens, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with the White House choosing one co-chairman and Congressional Democrats choosing another. The panel's leader is expected to wield broad power to determine its direction and findings.
"There are a couple of issues that remain between the White House and the Congress as this matter moves forward," Mr. Fleischer said. "The president would be very disappointed if the Congress allowed these issues to keep the agreement from happening. It should not keep the agreement from coming into being."
Mr. McCain and Mr. Lieberman also said the remaining issues should not be stumbling blocks, calling such matters as subpoena power and the chairmanship "minutiae" that could be negotiated. But the senators, joined today by Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said the issues raised by the White House today did not explain a far more fundamental opposition to the inquiry's broad scope.
"Senator Lieberman and I will not agree to an investigation that's limited in scope," Mr. McCain said.
The commission legislation is now attached to the Homeland Security Department bill, which is stalled in the Senate. Thursday's agreement called for the commission to be created as part of the spending bill for intelligence agencies, which could easily pass both houses of Congress once an agreement with the White House is reached.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
STANDARD DISCLAIMER FROM UQ.ORG: does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the above letter. We present this in the interests of research - for the relevant information we believe it contains. We hope that the reader finds in it inspiration to work with us further, in helping to build bridges between our various investigative communities, towards a greater, common understanding of the unanswered questions which now lie before us.

Next in Comment

Flicker Of Hope: Biden’s Throwaway Lines On Assange
By: Binoy Kampmark
Here We Go Again
By: Media Matters NZ
How To Immobilise A Health System’s Primary Statutory Adviser And Monitor
By: Ian Powell
Gordon Campbell On Israel’s Murderous Use Of AI In Gaza
By: Gordon Campbell
Death By Algorithm: Israel’s Ai War In Gaza
By: Binoy Kampmark
NZ’s government is relying on executive power to govern – that’s not how MMP was meant to work
By: The Conversation
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media