Toothless Commission: Holes in the Investigation

The following article is from Asia Times looking at how the U.S. commission on 9-11 has faced a number of obstacles from the Bush Administration and others. You can see the original article at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/FD01Aa02.html.

Toothless Commission: Holes in the Investigation

By Margie Burns

Asia Times

April 1, 2004

The 9-11 Commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States) faces monumental obstacles. The Pentagon has not cooperated, along with other major agencies, when asked to produce pertinent testimony and documents. The White House, opposed to the formation of a commission from the beginning, insisted that it comprise "bipartisan" members limited to the two major parties, and mandated that they be split five to five. Congress initially funded only US$3 million for the commission, subsequently raising that amount. Dr Henry Kissinger was first named to head the commission, but along with others, had to withdraw due to conflicts of interest. The prolonged stonewalling, lack of funding and lack of access have impeded and delayed the hiring of adequate research and investigative staff. The commission was given an impossible 18 months to complete its investigation, and though the deadline has been extended, it, too, faced White House opposition. Now those within the administration of President George W Bush are urging that only "unanimous" findings or recommendations be allowed in the commission's final public report.

Given that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were the worst assault ever on American soil, it is amazing that the Bush White House claims a record of "anti-terrorism". Actual counter-terrorism would have begun with a genuine investigation and would have pulled in Osama bin Laden alive, to stand trial, or more importantly, to disclose his knowledge of the events. The US intelligence community, guided by the National Security Agency(NSA), could have done it.

By the way, the NSA is among the topics not being aired much at commission hearings. But then, there are several such topics. The Family Steering Committee, composed of relatives of the victims of September 11, has posed a number of significant questions, none of which has been answered, or even mentioned for that matter, during several public hearings. The full range of questions still unanswered exceeds the scope of a single article, but even a short list of the questions pertaining to that day suggests the scope of inquiry:

Why did Bush, after being told of the second attack on the World Trade Center by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, continue to sit in a classroom at Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, for almost half an hour? A second question follows this one: Why did Card, shown in the Booker Elementary School video as entering the classroom, whisper into Bush's ear and instantly leaving, leave the room immediately after delivering his message? How did he know, as he seemed to know, that there would be no response? (This video can be viewed online at various websites). Why did Bush enter the school in the first place, after being informed of the first attack by US Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room? (see report ).

Is it even normal procedure for the director of the White House Situation Room to be traveling with the president? Why did the US Secret Service allow Bush to remain at Booker Elementary, when his schedule and itinerary were publicly known, after the attacks began? Was an order given to shoot down Flight 93, which went down in southwest Pennsylvania? Why did Air Force One depart from Florida without a military escort? For more information on Bush's movements and actions on September 11, a timeline of his day is published online by the Center for Cooperative Research, a non-profit organization.

Interestingly, the commission has unanimously demanded that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice appear to testify, which will happen now, although her ability to testify depends entirely on the White House, and it is unlikely that Rice ever had much to do with "national security" anyway. High profile, low stakes; looks like some sort of Washington game. As such, it thus far corroborates claims made by gadfly Republican presidential candidate John Buchanan, in a lengthy interview during the election primaries. His congressional sources, according to Buchanan, were telling him that Rice would be out before the end of the year. First Rice, he said, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then Vice President Dick Cheney.

The differences between this kind of game-playing, on one hand, and the genuine investigation of grave matters, on the other, should be self-evident. But in the meantime, it will be intriguing to see how the subsequent phases of Bush's liability-dumping are carried out.

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  • Posted: Sunday, April 04, 2004

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