[R-G] 9/11 Commish Quizzes Self
david.mcr at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 14 23:28:37 MST 2004
From: cord macguire <cordymac at hotmail.com>
Sent: Jan 14, 2004 11:44 PM
To: cordymac at hotmail.com
Subject: 9/11 Commish Quizzes Self
One last item for today.
This fish stinks. -Cord
2 on 9/11 Panel Are Questioned on Earlier Security Roles
by ERIC LICHTBLAU and JAMES RISEN
New York Times
January 15, 2004
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 The executive director of the independent commission
investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has become a witness in
the inquiry and has been interviewed by his own staff about his involvement
in shaping the Bush administration's early counterterrorism strategy,
officials said on Wednesday.
In addition, one of the 10 commissioners on the panel, a deputy attorney
general in the Clinton administration, was also interviewed this week. The
unusual dual roles of the director, Philip D. Zelikow, and the commissioner,
Jamie S. Gorelick, have raised fresh questions about potential conflicts of
interest in the commission, which has been dogged by concerns about its
independence since it was created in 2002.
In the transition before President Bush's inauguration in January 2001, Mr.
Zelikow worked on Mr. Bush's team to help formulate national security
policy. Because he participated in those discussions, investigators
interviewed him to learn how much information the incoming administration
had about the possibility of a major attack and what steps it took to guard
against that threat.
The transition period between the Clinton and Bush administrations remains a
sensitive issue, particularly in an election year. Many conservatives and
supporters of Mr. Bush have argued that President Bill Clinton did not do
enough to deal with the threat from Al Qaeda. Some Democrats and former
Clinton administration officials have countered that the Bush administration
did not take terrorism seriously enough, either, before 9/11.
Mr. Zelikow, a staff member of the National Security Council in the first
Bush administration and a close associate of Condoleezza Rice, the national
security adviser, has been a target of criticism because of concerns that
his role as executive director of the Sept. 11 commission could pose a
potential conflict. But it had not previously been disclosed that the panel
interviewed him about the early planning of the Bush administration.
"He does have information that could be of interest to the commission's
report," a spokesman for the commission, Al Felzenberg, said. "He wanted to
be interviewed. He said, `If I have anything that can be germane, ask me,
and I'll tell you what I saw and what I heard and what I recommended.' "
Mr. Zelikow declined to be interviewed about the issue because of commission
policy, Mr. Felzenberg said. Commission officials said they did not believe
that his role as a witness would impede the investigation because he had
removed himself from decisions or oversight involving his work on the
transition team. But the general counsel is continuing to examine the terms
of his recusal to determine whether it goes far enough to avoid any possible
conflicts, officials said.
"This is not a closed issue," said a commission official.
In addition, Ms. Gorelick, one of the 10 commissioners to whom Mr. Zelikow
reports, said she had been interviewed this week about her involvement in
terrorism policy. She was the top deputy in the mid-90's to Attorney General
Janet Reno. Like Mr. Zelikow, she has also recused herself from dealings
involving decisions in which she was involved.
Officials said Ms. Gorelick and two other commission members had also
withdrawn from involvement in aviation issues because their law firms had
airlines as clients. A handful of other staff members besides Mr. Zelikow
have recused themselves from specific areas, as well, because of past
Mr. Zelikow and Ms. Gorelick are the sole commission officials known to have
been interviewed. They are also the only two commission officials with wide
access to highly classified White House documents.
Mr. Zelikow's arrangement has caused particular concern among some
commission officials because it means that the man responsible for the
day-to-day operations of the panel will be removed from what could be an
important part of its inquiry.
Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the World Trade Center and who
has helped lead a group of survivors pushing for more answers about the
attacks, said the situation called into question the independence of the
"He has a huge conflict of interest," Ms. Breitweiser said when told that
Mr. Zelikow had been interviewed. "This is what we've been concerned about
from Day 1."
Her concern, Ms. Breitweiser said, is that the commission report "is going
to be a whitewash."
"What we want to know is why they didn't investigate Osama bin Laden
sooner," she added.
Her group plans to meet commission officials on Thursday, and family members
are likely to raise their concerns about possible conflicts, she said.
Ms. Gorelick said potential conflicts and recusals were the price that the
commission had to pay for having workers with extensive experience in
"You want to have people who are knowledgeable," she said. "So you make
certain accommodations to have that, and the accommodations we've made don't
undermine the investigation in any way."
Since its inception, the commission has been a focus of questions about
whether possible conflicts could taint its findings. The White House's first
choice for chairman, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, stepped
down rather than release a list of business clients at his consulting firm.
Some family members had protested that Mr. Kissinger's ties to multinational
corporations, foreign governments and the Republican establishment in
Washington would make it difficult for him to lead an objective
The first choice of Congressional Democrats for vice chairman, George J.
Mitchell, the former Senate leader, also stepped down after questions about
possible conflicts over his corporate clients.
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