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9/11 Panel to Accept Summary of Briefings

Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
9/11 Panel to Accept Summary of Briefings
Legal Challenge Scrapped; Agreement Angers Some Members, Victims' Families

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 11, 2004; Page A08

The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks backed away yesterday from a threatened legal showdown with the White House, agreeing to accept a 17-page summary of the presidential briefing documents it had sought.

The deal will not allow the full 10-member commission to read the original documents or to have access to notes on the documents taken by some of the commission's own members. The summary -- provided to commission members during a closed-door meeting yesterday -- covered several dozen original intelligence documents and was first vetted by the White House, officials said.

The limitations prompted at least three Democratic members of the bipartisan panel to vote in favor of issuing a subpoena to the White House for the documents, known as the President's Daily Brief (PDB).

But the move was rebuffed by Republicans on the commission, and at least one Democrat abstained, according to several commission members.

"You either say you didn't have warning prior to 9/11 and you let us see the documents, or you shouldn't claim that," said Democratic commission member Timothy J. Roemer, a former House member from Indiana. "To say there's nothing in the PDBs that gave the president warning and then put together an agreement that only allows one or two commissioners to see the PDBs is not defensible."

The agreement also angered families of Sept. 11 victims, who have criticized the panel for not being more aggressive in its frequent battles with the Bush administration.

The standoff was the second major dispute between the commission and the White House over the PDBs, highly sensitive compilations of intelligence information prepared for the chief executive. After a similar subpoena threat in November, the panel reached a complicated accord that allowed Executive Director Philip D. Zelikow and three commission members to review limited numbers of the documents.

The earlier deal gave the White House the power to approve what would be passed along to the seven commission members without access to the original PDBs. But the White House and the commission deadlocked in recent weeks over what could be handed over.

Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska who recently joined the commission, said "the White House broke its word" on that earlier agreement, and he contended that the latest deal will hurt the commission's effort to issue a complete report.

"We couldn't even get our own notes," Kerrey said. "If all 10 of us had read the documents, it would be much more likely that we would have a report the American people can trust."

But the commission chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and a former New Jersey governor, said the arrangement is the best possible outcome given the time constraints on the commission.

"I think this gives us what we need to do our report," Kean said. "Was it everything I wanted? No. But it's certainly enough to do what we need to do."

"We're pleased to work with them closely and in a cooperative manner," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said.

Yesterday's agreement follows an announcement last week that President Bush would support a two-month extension of the commission's current May 27 deadline.

An extension would require action by Congress, however, and some key Republicans are opposed to the idea, in part because it would mean the release of the controversial report on the terror strikes in the middle of the presidential election cycle.

John Feehery, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said yesterday that Hastert remains opposed to extending the commission deadline. The issue did not come up during a meeting on Monday with the White House, Feehery said.

The Bush administration, which initially opposed the establishment of the independent commission, has frequently clashed with the panel over access to information and witnesses. The commission has issued two subpoenas to federal agencies and is still in the process of negotiating for testimony from Bush, Vice President Cheney, former president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore.

When asked during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday whether he would testify before the commission, Bush responded: "Perhaps."

Under the original November agreement with the White House, four commission representatives -- Zelikow, Kean, Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D) and member Jamie S. Gorelick (D) -- had access to two dozen PDBs that the White House had preapproved as being relevant to the commission's mandate. In addition, Zelikow and Gorelick were able to comb through several hundred other PDBs from the Clinton and Bush administrations in search of information they deemed relevant.

From notes taken during these reviews, Gorelick compiled the 17-page summary provided to the commission yesterday, which was approved by the White House, officials said. Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, said the summary provides the commission with "the most important and salient facts" from the documents.

Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


TRIBE Member
and the american public continues to think this was an unprovoked and unplanned attack on their country..

nothing to hide eh bush?

Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
I at least hope this "independent" commission has the balls to say, after their report is released, that they did not have enough tangible evidence and access to material and people - due to opposition from the White House - to form a reasonable conclusion about what happened. It would be nice to see the Whitewash backfire.