DRAFT -- Further building the case for 9/11 Hearings
From: Kyle F. Hence
Cc: John Judge
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2003 11:14 AM
Subject: DRAFT -- Further building the case for 9/11 Hearings
Congressional Hearings on the course and conduct of the 9/11 Commission -- and a pattern of obstruction and delay on the part of the key agencies and the White House.
PREFACE: The views and advocacy outlined here by 9/11 CitizensWatch express those of its founders. Though conversations with victim family members are underway on this topic, this specific call for hearings has not, as of this date been endorsed by the 9/11 Families Steering Committee or any other victim family group.
In light of
- serious and repeated concerns raised by 9/11 family members regarding the investigation conducted by the 9/11 commission (see 9/11 Family Steering Committee Report below);
- the stone-walling by various government agencies and the White House over access to important 9/11 documents;
9/11 Commission Could Subpoena Oval Office Files, by Philip Shenon, New York Times, 10/26/03
- new unresolved conflict of interest charges leveled against 9/11 Commission Executive Director Phillip Zelikow who has enjoyed close ties to Condaleeza Rice and to the National Security Council he is charged with investigating; and
Sept. 11 Panel Defends Director's Impartiality - Concerns of Victims' Relatives Over Zelikow's National Security Ties Are Dismissed, by Dan Eggen, Washington Post, 14 October 2003
- suggestions or concerns recently expressed that the Commission may not meet it's deadline of May 27th 2004 due to delays in getting access to key documents, etc.;
9-11 Commission Stonewalled by Bush Administration, by Dale McFeatters, Capitol Hill Blue, 17 October 2003
CitizensWatch feels it is now incumbent upon the U.S. Congress (the House and the Senate) serving in its oversight capacity to hold formal hearings at the earliest opportunity to insure the integrity, thoroughness and transparency of the investigation going forward.
These hearings would allow Congress to examine problems with the course of the Commission's work thus far and, if need by, legislate adjustments or changes that would address a legacy of concerns expressed by family members, the Commissioners themselves, independent researchers and others.
This extraordinary action by the Congress must be taken now given the heightened controversies and challenges of waging the "war on terror" and the rising tide of skepticism raised around the world regarding official accounts of what happened on 9/11 (the 'theories' referred to by Chairman Kean) and doubts that the Commission will fill it's mandate of "leaving no stone unturned" in its fulfilling its legislated mandate.
Ultimately, the Commission is accountable to the American people and holding hearings in Congress at this critical juncture is a common sense response to the host of concerns and issues being raised.
The goal of these hearings, then, would be multi-fold:
- To formally allow 9/11 victim family members opportunity to enter into the Congressional record their observations, concerns, still unanswered questions, and suggestions for improvement in the Commission's conduct and course of their inquiry in the final third of .
NOTE: This would be especially prescient should Congress be asked to give the Commission an extension.
- To allow independent researchers and government witnesses who have not been heard (such as FBI agent Robert Wright) by the Commission to testify to Congress why their testimony should be heard and included by the 9/11 Commission
- To put additional needed pressure upon both the 9/11 Commission and the non-cooperating or slow-walking agencies and White House to immediately take whatever action is required to see that any and all document and related materials requested are produced in an expedited manner.
- To allow members an opportunity to hear suggestions for corrective measures that would help insure the Commission can meet its deadline or alternatively, if requested consider an extension with legislated conditions and stipulation to be met going forward.
- To resolve apparent conflicts of interest (or the appearance of conflicts of interest)
Given the vital importance of the Commission's work CitizensWatch anticipates that many of the witnesses who might be called to offer testimony before a Senate or House Committee would be willing and able to testify with little advance notice and thus CitizensWatch would encourage Committee chairs to call such a hearing before the Holiday break if at all possible.
9/11 CitizensWatch puts itself at the service of any and all members who would like to be briefed regarding the issues and questions being presented here and those raised by the families and others. It is also available to make any necessary introductions to family members or others who might be invited to participate in the proposed hearings, should they occur.
Kyle F. Hence
Director of NYC office
Director of Washington, DC office
cc. John Judge
FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE FOR THE 9/11 INDEPENDENT COMMISSION
Response to the 9/11 Commission's Second Interim Report
October 4, 2003
Access to documents and witnesses
The Second Interim Report includes contradictory statements about White House cooperation. The report indicates that the Commission has received all requested documents, but conversely says that the Commission is negotiating with the White House over "additional sensitive documents" it needs.
- If the Commission is still negotiating, obviously it does not have all the requested documents.
- What evidentiary documents are still outstanding?
We are told that if the President provides the requested documents it will break a precedent of not releasing sensitive documents. When our government failed to prevent the mass murder of three thousand people on American soil on September 11th it also broke a precedent. Our government, including our President, is morally obligated to answer questions about how this attack could have happened.
- For more than two years, the families of the dead and millions of other Americans have been waiting for accountability from our government officials.
- In order to fully understand our nation's lack of preparedness and response to the attack and to understand other contributing factors, the Commission must have unconditional access to documents and witnesses throughout the government, particularly in the executive branch which makes national security decisions.
- The "unusual arrangements imposed for access to FBI documents" should be detailed for the American public.
Regarding particularly requested missing documents which the Commission expected various agencies to have:
- With only seven months left to complete its investigation and write a report, it is past time for the Commission to use the subpoena power which Congress gave it to get full, unfettered access to all documents and witnesses.
- Subpoena the missing documents and question the head of each agency under oath about the requested documents.
When asked about minders by reporters, Chairman Kean admitted that in order to have access to the witnesses, the Commission had to accept the minders. He said the Commission staff believes no one has been intimidated by their presence. Chairman Hamilton, however, added the caveat that it is very difficult to tell when a witness is being intimidated by a minder.
- To preclude any hint of intimidation, no minders should be present during the interviews. This should not be negotiable.
The three public hearings scheduled for the remainder of this year are not investigative in nature. The issues of organization and leadership in our intelligence agencies, emergency preparedness, and FBI reforms and intelligence gathering procedures could be discussed in closed hearings.
- What our government knew, how it acted on that information and exactly what happened on September 11th are critical topics which should be publicly explored in the Commission's investigation of our government's failure to prevent the murder of 3000 people.
- It is unacceptable that no public hearings are planned to probe the Executive branch, Congressional oversight, or terrorist funding.
- The public hearing on the Day of September 11th should be held well before its scheduled April, 2004 date. An April hearing about the actions of our government on September 11th will not leave sufficient time to recall witnesses or to explore questions which may arise from that inquiry before the Commission's May 27th deadline.
- The Commission should hold public hearings this year in which officials from the CIA, FBI, NSC, NSA, INS, DOD and the White House are interviewed under oath.
This investigation was supposed to be hard hitting and transparent. So far it has been neither. Instead it appears that the Commission has acquiesced to every condition imposed by recalcitrant government officials.
Without true interim reports which reveal substantive findings, the Commission's investigation is opaque. With all findings withheld, no probing or embarrassing questions will be asked prior to the release of a final report.
- Americans should be aware that before its release, the 9/11 Commission's report will go to the White House for review. Based on what happened with the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Report, it is entirely possible the 9/11 Commission's report will be withheld for months and ultimately, significant portions will be redacted under the guise of executive privilege and top secret classification.
It is well past time for accountability from the White House and all government agencies whose policies and actions had a bearing on September 11th. We call on the Commission to demonstrate now that it is following its mandate for a full accounting by releasing substantive interim reports and initiating investigative public hearings.