The following is every statement issued by the 9/11 Family Steering Committee during the 9/11 Commission, and after it. Aside from the unanswered questions, the Steering Committee’s website is an invaluable resource if you truly want to understand the process in which 9/11 was/wasn’t investigated. I hope that everyone takes the time to read through this. Earlier statements made by the Committee are available for download here.
Comment on the Third Public Hearing of the 9/11 Commission
Topic: Terrorism, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim World
July 9, 2003
Washington, DC — Experts in Al Qaeda and state sponsored terrorism testified at the third public hearing of The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Although there was some disagreement about whether Al Qaeda is capable of launching another attack such as September 11th, all recommended that the United States work cooperatively with other nations to fight the global terror threat. Some felt that the war in Iraq will spawn further terrorism if the US cannot bring stability quickly to the country. There was agreement that rebuilding should be a multinational effort.
Family Steering Committee Press Conference Remarks
September 10, 2003
Three thousand lives were lost and three thousand families destroyed on September 11th. America was traumatized, and we are still reeling from the emotional and financial carnage. The families of the dead and all Americans deserve some accountability from our government for its failure to protect us on 9/11.
On August 27th the Family Steering Committee received an update on the Commission’s progress. We learned that there has been improved compliance from some government agencies and that minders continue to be present during interviews, even though the Chairman and Vice Chairman publicly protested.
We appreciate that the Commission staff is working very hard on this complex probe. However, no findings from the Commission’s investigation have been released. A lot of frustration stems from the fact that we have not heard anything of substance. The clock is ticking. Half the Commission’s allotted time has elapsed.
Two years have passed since the attacks. We know more about the terrorists and the breadth of intelligence failures from the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Report but we still don’t know much about the other factors related to why our government failed to protect us.
Since no substantive information about the investigation has been released, we are being asked to take on faith that an in-depth investigation is taking place and that it will not be a whitewash. But trust began to die when President Bush opposed an independent investigation for more than a year. We should not have had to fight our government for an independent Commission. Each subsequent misrepresentation or manipulation of facts by government officials has caused further erosion of trust.
Lingering questions, and those that have been answered with half-truths or omissions, do not promote trust. Instead they lead to conjecture and discontent.
Only a full, unfettered accounting of September 11th can restore faith in our government’s integrity and aid the Commission in making appropriate recommendations for improved security.
To reassure America that the Commission’s investigation is pursuing the truth wherever it leads, the FSC recommends that
- witnesses be sworn in
- subpoenas be issued for recalcitrant witnesses and agencies
- interim reports contain some concrete indication of progress being made, such as the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry did
- hard hitting hearings be held in which government officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations are publicly questioned. Of the three public hearings so far, only that involving the FAA and NORAD asked any probing, investigative questions.
Some things about September 11th just don’t make sense in light of intelligence gathered and established protocol and procedures in place prior to 9/11, so the Family Steering Committee has submitted questions to the Commission on a wide range of topics. To date, none of our questions have been answered.
Why did our government fail its foremost obligation to protect its citizens on 9/11?
All other questions stem from that. There are questions about domestic and foreign intelligence, INS, NSC, NSA, FAA, NORAD, stock puts, and Promis software. There are also questions about the influence of non-government entities on our government’s foreign and domestic policies. No government official or agency should be exempt from questions about what they knew or did prior to or on September 11th.
The Commission is the only entity that is investigating all the factors that contributed to the mass murder of 3000 people. It is the only one looking at the whole picture.
We are counting on the Commission to examine evidence and explain how something so horrific could have happened here in America.
All Americans are stakeholders in the success of the Independent Commission. The security of our nation depends on it. Until we fully understand what went wrong on September 11th, we can’t fix the problems.
Once the Commission makes recommendations for improved security, it will be up to Congress to rise above the influence of special interests and act on those recommendations. And then follow through to see that the laws are enforced.
Until then, we will continue to be nearly as vulnerable as we were on September 11th.
Family Steering Committee Report Card for the 9/11 Commission
Our purpose in providing this report card is to motivate the Independent Commission to better serve the public interest by informing them of their progress and work.
Our hope is that the Commission will view this mid-term Report Card and act upon areas of weakness. And, in doing so, better assure the American public that they are doing the job that needs to be done.
* We understand that much of the Commission’s work is done behind closed doors. This mid-term report card reflects the limited information that we have gleaned from open-hearings, meetings and conversations with the 9/11 Commission staff director and 9/11 Commissioners. We are publishing this report card due to requests for information on the Commission’s progress from victims’ families and concerned citizens, alike.
Investigative, Informative Open Hearings: D
The topics and content of the prior three open hearings were disappointing. Both the selection of witnesses and the probing by Commissioners in public forum fell short of our expectations.
Preparedness and critical thinking/questioning is a keystone of a thorough and worthwhile hearing, and in turn, an effective commission. Because the Commissioners either lacked the information and education on certain issues (namely the FAA and NORAD protocols, the timeline of 9/11, the evacuation and emergency response protocols of the City of NY), or simply did not have the will, the Commissioners, individually and as a whole, did not carryout the necessary hard-hitting lines of questioning, cross-examination and crucial follow-up questioning all of which are critical in unearthing the truth.
The FSC feels that expert witnesses invited to testify before the Independent Commission should hold valuable and pertinent information that will yield fruitful insights into the systemic government failures that occurred on 9/11. As an example, in the most recent open hearing, we had an “expert” witness testifying on Iraq and no expert witness testifying about Saudi Arabia. The FSC would like to draw attention to the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, and none were from Iraq. Additionally, the 900-page Joint Inquiry Report shows no Iraqi connection to 9/11.
The FSC did attempt to recommend both Open Hearing topics and Open Hearing expert witness lists. Our requests were left unanswered. When invited to do so, the FSC has also supplied information and questions to the Commissioners for each open hearing. We will continue to do so. However, whether the Commissioners choose to use our line of questioning remains in their sole discretion.
Frequency of Hearings: C-
This Commission has been established for over nine months. Yet, there have only been three open hearings. At its inception, the Commission promised the FSC that there would be one open hearing per month.
To date, the FSC has expressed concern about the infrequency of open hearings. We have also requested that certain months “double up” on hearings. These requests remain unanswered.
The purpose and power of open hearings was illustrated during the Joint Inquiry’s investigation. Open hearings inform the public. Open hearings provide the impetus for change by shedding sunlight onto problems and failures. Perhaps, most importantly, open hearings ensure that not all of a committee’s work remains classified.
Family Member Testimony: B-
The FSC had hoped to have more than one opportunity to testify before the Independent Commission. The purpose of family member testimony is to draw better attention to areas that the Independent Commission is unwilling to address.
To date, the FSC has requested the opportunity for family member testimony at each hearing. These requests have remained unanswered.
Staff Director Interim Reports: D
The legislation mandating the Independent Commission does not require Staff Director Interim Reports. The FSC has requested public interim reports be given by Philip Zelikow, much in the same way that Staff Director Eleanor Hill gave interim reports during the Joint Inquiry’s investigation. Mr. Zelikow has denied such request.
One of the FSC’s goals for this commission was to better inform the public. It is evident that public awareness saves lives. United Airlines Flight 93 and Richard Reid the “shoe-bomber” are excellent examples of the power and importance of public awareness.
Interim reports are critical in making the public more aware. Two years have passed since September 11th. Nine months have passed since this Commission has been established. And yet, the public still remains very much in the dark.
Structure and Conduct of Open Hearings: D
This commission was established as an “independent” body of individuals to conduct an independent, non-political, bi-partisan, and unbiased inquiry into the failures that occurred on 9/11.
The FSC is shocked with the use of “minders” in the interrogatory process. And, despite the Commissioner’s similar objection to “minders”, as stated at the last press conference, “minders” continue to be present during witness examination and questioning. The FSC does not want “minders” present during any witness examination and questioning; it is a form of intimidation and it does not yield the unfettered truth.
Also a concern of the FSC is the failure of this Commission to swear witnesses in prior to their testimony. Without sworn testimony, witnesses cannot be held accountable for what they testify about before the Commission. While given assurances by the Staff Director that prior witnesses would be brought to task for their inaccurate statements made during open hearings, the FSC has been given no evidence that has been done.
The FSC has additional concerns regarding the Commission’s reticence to subpoena witnesses. The FSC had wanted the Independent Commission to “subpoena early and often.”
The Commission’s failure to subpoena, while polite, prohibits the ultimate claim by the Commission that they, themselves, were the victims of “stonewalling” by the agencies, organizations and councils. Nine months into their investigation, the Commission must use every avenue possible to gain the information and access to witnesses needed to make their investigation a success.
Understanding of the Commission’s Mandate: incomplete
Public Law 107-306, which established this commission states that “the function of this commission is to conduct an investigation that investigates relevant facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, including any relevant legislation, Executive Order, regulation, plan, policy, practice, or procedure; and may include relevant facts and circumstances relating to intelligence agencies; law enforcement agencies; diplomacy; immigration, non-immigrant visas, and border control; the flow of assets to terrorist organizations; commercial aviation; the role of Congressional oversight and resource allocation; and other areas of the public and private sectors determined relevant to the Commission for its inquiry.
The Commission is to identify, review, and evaluate the lessons learned from the terrorist attacks from September 11th, 2001, regarding the structure, coordination, management policies, and procedures of the federal government, and, if appropriate, state and local governments and non-governmental entities relative to detecting, preventing, and responding to such terrorist attacks.”
Our interpretation of the Independent Commission’s mandate is that the Commission would have investigated the Timeline of events that transpired on the morning of 9/11. There are a finite amount of facts that revolve around 9/11. These facts reveal a finite amount of glaring failures that occurred on behalf of our government and its agencies and institutions.
If the Independent Commission’s open hearings are evidence of the Commission’s understanding of their mandate, then the Independent Commission’s obligation as required under law will not have been met. This failure will not only be for the 9/11 victims’ families, it will be a failure for all of the American people.
FSC Requests Staff Director Zelikow’s Recusal
October 3, 2003
The 9/11 Independent Commission’s status report/press conference last Tuesday, September 23, 2003, has left the Family Steering Committee (FSC) deeply concerned about the ability of this Commission to access crucial documents. Without these, the Commission will be unable to fully assess the failures that led to the events of 9/11.
Specifically, we are concerned about document requests from the National Security Council (NSC), the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and any and all other communications made by Administration officials leading up to, and including, the morning of 9/11. The FSC has been assured that access to these documents is a part of a continuing series of “negotiations” between the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Staff Director of the Commission and the White House.
At the outset of the Independent Commission’s work, the FSC was aware that Philip Zelikow was a co-author and close friend of Condoleezza Rice. We also knew that Mr. Zelikow was hired as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in early October, 2001. We had concerns about these possible conflicts of interest but we were assured that Staff Director Zelikow’s relationship with the White House would facilitate the access to Administration documentation and information.
We accepted this because we were aware of Professor Zelikow’s role in the release of certain Diplomatic Documentation for the National Archives and his testimony before the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation that “the CIA’s decision to withhold the entire PDB series from release (w)as pernicious.” (U.S. Department of State, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, April 10-11, 2000, page 8). We were aware that he also testified that “a blanket denial of all PDB’s would set a dangerous precedent.”(Ibid, page 9). Thus, the FSC had an expectation that Mr. Zelikow’s position on the release of PDB’s would also apply to the situation facing the 9/11 Commission. Access to the Administration’s documentation, transcripts, and decision-making procedures is crucial, especially the August 6, 2001, PDB, which contained information regarding attacks against the U.S. by Al Qaeda.
On Tuesday, October 7, 2003, the 9/11 Independent Commission will inform the FSC and the American people whether or not the White House has allowed access to all of the documents requested by the 9/11 Independent Commission. In order to be accepted as a full and truthful accounting of September 11th, all aspects of the Commission’s investigation must be free of suspicion. Therefore, only Chairman Kean, Vice-Chair Hamilton or Deputy Executive Director Kojm should be negotiating with the Administration regarding the release of documents.
This naturally leads to our second area of concern, which arises from recent research indicating that Philip Zelikow served as a member of the Bush Administration’s transition team. In fact, according to a Washington Post article from February 2001, “Last September, Condoleezza Rice asked Philip Zelikow, a fellow staffer on the Scowcroft NSC…to draft memos on organizing the NSC along Scowcroft’s lines. Edited by Rice and others, the memos were further refined when Rice’s deputy Stephen Hadley came on board, and Zelikow…became part of the transition…free to roam the halls of the Clinton NSC operation.”
The investigation will naturally encompass the role of many individuals involved with the Bush Administration’s NSC and PFIAB. Due to this conflict of interest, we believe Staff Director Zelikow should remove himself from any and all portions of the investigation addressing the NSC in keeping with established Commission protocols. For example, Commissioner Gorelick has removed herself from all Justice Department investigations, Commissioner Roemer and Vice Chair Hamilton have removed themselves from all Congressional oversight investigations, and Commissioners Gorton and Thompson have removed themselves from all airline investigations in response to previous vetted conflicts of interest. Should Staff Director Zelikow refuse to do so, the FSC respectfully requests his resignation as Staff Director from 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 eight 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. Minders 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.
Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding the 9/11 Commission and the Need to Access Documents from Administration Agencies
October 28, 2003
The Family Steering Committee is deeply distressed to find that eleven months into the government’s independent investigation into the attacks of 9/11, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States is still in the document-collecting phase due to stonewalling by the Administration.
Counter to the public statements made by both Administration officials and Commission members that there is continued cooperation between Administration agencies and the Commission, the record indicates otherwise.
A critical document the Commission needs is the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB). Although such a document has never been released to an outside investigative agency during a current administration’s tenure, an full analysis of the administrative failures that led to the death of 3000 people on the morning of September 11th calls for such an historical precedent.
The Administration itself opened the door to a review of these documents when Condoleeza Rice, in the days after the attacks, stated that the Administration and its agencies did not foresee the use of planes being used as weapons. Such a statement by the nation’s National Security Advisor calls into question the quality of information that flows from intelligence agencies to the Executive Branch. Analyzing this information, as well as other intelligence prior to and on the morning of September 11th, is crucial in determining how any Administration could better prevent or prepare for terrorist attacks. And access to these critical documents will be limited to the Commissioners and staff only — all of whom have the highest levels of security clearance.
The flow of information from the Intelligence Community to the Executive Branch is a determining factor as to how pervasive the Intelligence failures were in the period leading up to September 11, 2001 and to what degree the Intelligence Community needs to be overhauled. The need to create new intelligence departments along with who they should report to can only be properly vetted after examining documents such as the PDB. All administrations rely on this vital flow of information from the intelligence community.
While respecting the concept of Executive Privilege, Family Steering Committee believes that in the interest of improving national security, Executive Privilege must rightfully yield so that this Commission can produce a comprehensive and definitive report.
Therefore, we call upon all members of Congress to demand that the Administration and its agencies grant immediate, full and unfettered access to all necessary documents requested by this Commission in order to ensure our nation’s safety.
Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding Access to Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs)
November 13, 2003
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Independent Commission, released a statement to the press regarding the culmination of recent negotiations with the White House. These negotiations involved the 9/11 Independent Commission’s document requests for access to certain Presidential Daily Briefings that may relate to the 9/11 attacks.
In response to the Commission’s Press Release, which provides insufficient details to evaluate the circumstances and effects of the compromise, the Family Steering Committee holds the following positions:
1. All ten Commissioners should have full, unfettered, and unrestricted access to all evidence – including but not limited to all Presidential Daily Briefings and all working notes related to those Presidential Daily Briefings, that may be related to the attacks on 9/11.
2. The full, official, and final written Agreement that was reached between the Commission and the White House should be released to the American public in its entirety. The American public should be fully informed as to all legal restrictions and limitations placed within this Agreement upon the 9/11 Independent Commission and their collective ability to access all information needed for their investigation. Furthermore, the mechanism by which this Agreement was reached should be fully released to the public. For example, who was involved in these negotiations? Were the terms of this agreement presented to all Commissioners and was a subsequent vote taken?
3. The Commission should issue a Statement to the American public fully explaining why this Agreement was chosen in lieu of issuing subpoenas to the CIA and Executive Branch to access these certain Presidential Daily Briefings.
4. The Family Steering Committee is committed to ensuring that the Independent Commission executes their mission statement in a full and unrestricted manner.
The mission statement of the 9-11 Commission is as follows:
“The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.”
As it now stands a limited number of Commissioners will have restricted access to a limited number of PDB documents. This will prevent a full uncovering of the truth and is unacceptable.
Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding the One-Year Anniversary of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States
November 27, 2003
In his remarks at the signing of the Intelligence Authorization Act on November 27, 2002, President Bush stated that the Commission’s investigation “should carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the facts, wherever they lead. We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th. My administration will continue to act on the lessons we’ve learned so far to better protect the people of this country. It’s our most solemn duty.”
Sadly, on the one-year anniversary of the establishment of the 9/11 Commission, we, on the Family Steering Committee find that the President has not respected his “most solemn duty.” By refusing to provide full and unfettered access to the Presidential Daily Briefings to all of the Commissioners, this Commission will be unable to “carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the facts wherever they lead.”
President Bush also stated, “We have a duty — a solemn duty — to do everything we can to protect this country. And that’s important for America to know. In the war against terror our goal is to take every measure that is necessary, to gather all information that is available and gain every advantage that is possible. An aggressive investigation into September the 11th, with a responsible concern for sensitive information that will allow us to win the war on terror will contribute to the security of this country.”
In an effort to protect this country and honor our loved ones lost, the FSC respectfully objects to the Agreement reached between the Commission and the White House regarding access to the PDB¹s. We urge the Commission to follow the directive of the President as stated on November 27, 2002, and to aggressively take every measure necessary to gather all information that is available. This Commission must subpoena the White House to provide full and complete access for all ten Commissioners to the entire document group of PDB’s. All ten Commissioners have the highest security clearance; all ten should review these critical documents.
President Bush further stated, “I also hope that the commission will act quickly and issue its report prior to the 18-month deadline embodied in the legislation. After all, if there’s changes that need to be made, we need to know them as soon as possible, for the security of our country. The sooner we have the commission’s conclusions, the sooner this administration will act on them.”
Ironically, the production of a timely report no longer seems to be possible, in large part because of the delays caused by the administration and the agencies who report to it. Due to the untimely issuance of subpoenas to the FAA, NORAD, and the City of New York along with the access restrictions placed by the White House (resulting in a compromised Commission), the FSC strongly recommends that this Commission explore the possibility of an extension.
As President Bush stated, “As a people, Americans are always looking forward. As a nation, we’re working every day to build a future that is peaceful and secure. To reach this goal we must learn all about the past that we can. This commission is not only important for this administration, this commission will be important for future administrations.” As victims’ family members, we more poignantly than anyone realize, value, and want to see the words stated by President Bush on November 27, 2002 honored, but we believe that the Commission will be unable to issue a thorough, comprehensive and final report by May 27, 2004. Above all, we have always wanted and still want a definitive, final, and comprehensive report that would give us answers as to why over three thousand people died that day. We wanted – and still want – answers, explanations, and reforms that would show us that the future of America is, indeed, peaceful and more secure. We call upon President Bush and the Commissioners to have the courage to reevaluate their positions with regard to the Commission. And now, we must look forward and wait.
Family Steering Committee’s Statement Regarding The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
December 1, 2003
On November 27, 2002, President Bush stated, “In the war against terror our goal is to take every measure that is necessary, to gather all information that is available and gain every advantage that is possible. An aggressive investigation into September the 11th, with a responsible concern for sensitive information that will allow us to win the war on terror will contribute to the security of this country.”
In order for the Commission’s report to be thorough and complete the FSC maintains the following:
a. The Commission must subpoena the White House to provide full and complete access for all ten Commissioners to the entire document group of PDBs. All ten Commissioners have the highest security clearance; all ten should review these critical documents.
b. The Commission should further account for how the following statement made by the Commission does not negate Staff Director Philip Zelikow’s role as set out in their Agreement with the White House regarding access to the PDBs:
“We have in place procedures to determine when and under what circumstances members of the Commission or its staff have conflicts of interest. It has been our practice that an individual recuses himself or herself from aspects of our investigation in which the person has a potential conflict of interest or where there may be the appearance of such a conflict. Dr. Zelikow did assist in the transition at the National Security Council. He had previously recused himself from direct involvement in the part of our investigation that pertains to the NSC during the Clinton-Bush transition. He is making available to the Commission information from this period. Thus, the Commission will have full and reliable information on this topic. Other members of the professional staff will supervise all staff activity that pertain to the NSC transition and report directly to us on those matters. We have taken these steps at Dr. Zelikow’s request. He believes, and we believe, that the public must be assured that all who participate in this investigation are free of conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof.”
2) Time Constraints –
Initially, the Independent Commission was to have issued its Final Report within eighteen months of its creation. In order to win the war on terrorism it is in the nation’s best interest for the Commission to release its final recommendations as soon as possible. However, because of serious delays in accessing information from key agencies (namely, the FAA, NORAD, the White House, and the City of New York) the FSC feels that the original May 27, 2004 deadline is unrealistic and must be extended. Simply stated, the Commission needs more time to thoroughly access and acquire crucial information in order to produce the complete and definitive Final Report that is mandated. The arbitrary deadline previously set for this Commission must now yield towards the higher goal of producing a thorough, complete and well thought-out Final Report. This goal–nonpolitical in nature–is undoubtedly in this nation’s best interest.
3) Replacing Commissioner Cleland –
At this late date, the Commission will soon lose one of its Commissioners. The person who replaces Senator Cleland should be someone who understands the Commission’s mandate, is familiar with the issues at hand, and is thoroughly committed to following all of the facts wherever they may lead. The FSC feels that these criteria are imperative and mandatory for any potential replacement.
Family Steering Committee Statement on the Appointment of Senator Bob Kerrey
December 9, 2003
Based on a favorable outcome after the standard vetting for any potential conflicts of interest, the FSC welcomes Senator Bob Kerrey to the 9/11 Independent Commission. A conflict of interest would be defined as any pecuniary self-interest, monetary interest, or bias that would cloud a Commissioner’s ability to thoroughly investigate any and/or all aspects of 9/11.
We continue to expect the Commission, staff and now Senator Kerrey to aggressively seek the truth about 9/11. We maintain that the Commission and staff must follow the facts wherever they may lead with complete transparency in order to answer the many unresolved questions about 9/11. We are hopeful that this appointment to the Commission will serve to re-invigorate and re-focus the Commission to their task of investigating how intelligence and defense failures led to the murder of 3000 victims on the morning of 9/11.
Since the Commission’s deadline is rapidly approaching, we hope that Senator Kerrey will be expeditiously brought up to speed with the work of the Commission thus far. Time is of the essence as the nation waits to find out how and why the inconceivable was allowed to happen on the morning of 9/11.
STATEMENT BY THE FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE FOR THE 9/11 INDEPENDENT COMMISSION REGARDING THE NEED FOR AN EXTENSION
January 22, 2004
With little more than four months until May 27th, we feel that the Commission must request an extension from Congress regardless of whether the extension deadline is prior to or after the election. Our reasons are as follows:
1. The scaling back of the number and scope of public hearings. During the first year of the Commission’s investigation, the Commission repeatedly promised that substantive, hard-hitting, investigative hearings with testimony from high-ranking officials would commence in January 2004. According to a recent Washington Post article and certain Commissioner’s own admissions, these promised hearings are now being curtailed and/or cancelled due to time constraints.
2. The discovery of new information of probative value in need of further investigation by the Commission. Recently, new information with regard to 9/11 has been revealed. (See Newsweek, Mike Isikoff; See N.Y.Observer, Gail Sheehy) According to media accounts, staff operations at the Commission are “frenzied” in their rush to complete their work by the May 27th deadline. As a result, certain specific, relevant information with regard to 9/11 is being “turned away” because of the Commission’s need to focus on only broad issues. (See N.Y.Observer, comment by unnamed Commissioner)
3. The need for a Classified Final Report. The Commission is currently preparing a non-classified Final Report to be due out on May 27, 2004. The Commission, thereafter plans to release certain “supplemental classified monoliths.” While this controlled release of information may please certain intelligence agency officials, the FSC is opposed to it. The FSC suggests the Commission issue a fully classified Final Report that would then be de-classified through the use of visible redactions. The FSC would recommend the Commission look towards the Joint Inquiry’s Final Report as their model. The preparation of a classified Final Report requires more time and preparation by both Commissioners and Staff.
The FSC has spoken to 8 out of 10 Commissioners. All eight Commissioners are in favor of an extension for the Commission.
Moreover, Congressional support for an extension is also apparent. Senator John McCain, a co-sponsor of the original legislation that created the Independent Commission has stated, “They know they have plenty of people who would support them and force votes. They’ve got to have the guts to formally request it. So far, they haven’t shown that.”
January 20, 2004
Governor Thomas H. Kean, Chairman
Hon. Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chairman
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street, S.W., Suite 5125
Washington, DC 20407
Dear Chairman Kean and Vice Chairman Hamilton,
We write you today to formally request a meeting with the Commissioners and senior Commission staff to discuss the progress of the Commission to date. We respectfully suggest that the meeting occur next week, either preceding or following the public hearings on January 26th and 27th.
With little more than four months until May 27th, we feel that the Commission does not have adequate time to fulfill its mandate. An article in yesterday’s Washington Post said that the Commission “has already decided to scale back the number and scope of hearings that it will hold for the public.” The article goes on to characterize the frenzied nature of staff operations in a rush to complete work by the May 27th deadline.
When President Bush signed into law the legislation that created the Commission, his expectation was that it would hold public hearings, in no small part as a way to restore confidence in a government that was made to look weak and inadequate by the events of 9/11. Respectfully, we question whether the hearings to date have had that desired effect. Additionally, Family Steering Committee cooperation has been predicated on Commissioners’ promises to hold meaningful and substantive hearings in the future. While we have no doubt that these assurances were made in good faith, we are concerned that circumstances have forced the Commission to re-evaluate this position.
It should also go without saying that anything less than a cogent and comprehensive final report will be wholly unacceptable to the American people in general and the families of the 9/11 victims in particular. Yet articles in various newspapers – together with anecdotal information – lead the Family Steering Committee to believe that this is the only possible outcome absent an extension. We want to express our strong commitment to supporting an extension if the staff and the Commissioners feel that extra time is warranted, regardless of whether the report comes out prior to, or after, the election. Again we are asking that we all rise above politics and work towards the most complete report.
Thank you very much for your consideration of this request. Should you have any questions regarding the Family Steering Committee’s availability during these days, please call Bill Harvey at (917) 648-6102. As time is of the essence, we will follow up with Commission staff later today.
The Family Steering Committee
The Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding Their Request For An Extension to January 2005
January 29, 2004
The FSC requests a January 2005 deadline for the Independent Commission. It is what we always wanted and originally asked for. It is the only way to remove the Commission’s work and investigation from the political process. It is the only way to have a comprehensive, well-researched, and well-thought out Final Report. The FSC will strenuously support only a January 2005 deadline.
It is for the following reasons we do not support an extension of only 2 months:
1. The commission is canceling vital public hearings. Two sets of hearings in February are already canceled. The Commission needs an extension to January 2005 to maintain the public hearing schedule that was promised to us by the Commissioners. Anyone doubting the value and importance of public hearings need only to read the transcripts from the prior two hearings held earlier this week. Public hearings serve to restore confidence in a government that was made to look weak and inadequate by the events of 9/11.
2. The commission needs to release a fully classified Final Report—the production of which requires more time and preparation.
The Commission is currently preparing an unclassified final report due out on May 27th. While this controlled release of information may please certain intelligence agency officials, it promotes the murky secrecy that this Commission was designed to combat. In short, an unclassified Final Report will be watered down, benign, and secretive. In order for the American people to “know what they don’t know”–know what is being kept a secret–we must be able to see the visible blackened redactions that can only be made on a classified Final Report. Anyone questioning the power in such visible redactions need only recall the 28 blank pages regarding foreign government sponsorship of terrorism in the Joint Inquiry’s Final Report released last summer.
3. The Commission is not getting access to the PDB’s that was agreed to between the Administration and the Commissioners. It is our understanding that the Commission as a whole has yet to see one PDB article. This issue and the necessary negotiation surrounding it will take more than 2 additional months to get worked out.
4. The Commission is turning away valuable, vital, relevant information regarding 9/11 because of time constraints. With all the whistleblowers now coming forward, they need more than two months to fully investigate these claims.
5. An extension of 2 months places this commission in the middle of politics. To do so, is an insult to the dead.
The Family Steering Committee For the 9/11 Independent Commission Statement Regarding the Need for an Extension to January 10, 2005
February 3, 2004
It is a fact that:
- It took over one year to get the 9/11 Independent Commission created.
- The Commission now finds itself behind schedule, unable to meet its mandate and unprepared to issue a complete and comprehensive Final Report by May 27, 2004.
The FSC supports an extension to January 2005. A pre-mature termination of this Commission will place this nation at risk.
Prior to this Commission terminating its investigation, the Commission must:
- Fulfill its legislative mandate of fully investigating the attacks of 9/11 and going wherever the facts may lead;
- Fulfill its verbal promises to the American public regarding public hearings;
- Fulfill its promise to gain access to all relevant information regarding 9/11, including information contained in Presidential Daily Briefings and held by federal whistleblowers;
- Fulfill its promise to conduct a transparent investigation that provides accountability and fixes responsibility to those who contributed to the failures that led to 9/11.
Chairman Kean has stated that he is in opposition to such a lengthy extension, arguing that the report will have important national security recommendations that should be put in place as soon as possible.
We remind Chairman Kean that the Commission has the authority to make interim recommendations and can expedite legislative reforms. Sec. 610 of Public Law 107-306 specifically states: (a) Interim Reports—The Commission may submit to the President and Congress interim reports containing such findings, conclusions, and recommendations for corrective measures as have been agreed to by a majority of Commission members.
Question 1: Should valuable public hearings be canceled?
The 9/11 Independent Commission promised the 9/11 families and all of America that there would be public hearings on all topics covered in their mandate and that substantive, investigative, hard-hitting hearings would commence in January 2004.
Public hearings serve a valuable purpose. They educate and inform the American public about the work of the Commission and the performance of public and private official leading up to and including the day of September 11th.
The FSC opposes the wholesale cancellation and/or curtailment of any public hearings.
Question #2: Should access to the presidential daily briefings be denied because the Commission is unwilling to issue a subpoena?
The 9/11 Independent Commission has not received an acceptable level of access to the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDB). In fact, the 9/11 Independent Commission, as a whole, has not received one article from a PDB. Without this access, these highly relevant pieces of information regarding 9/11 cannot be made part of the Independent Commission’s investigation or Final Report.
When the agreement was made between the 9/11 Independent Commission and the White House regarding access to the PDB’s the Commission told the 9/11 families that if the agreement became unacceptable, the Commission would re-visit the agreement.
The FSC recommends the Independent Commission’s use of a subpoena to gain full and immediate access to the PDB’s.
Question #3: Should high-ranking officials escape testifying at public hearings and being held accountable during those public hearings for their failures on 9/11?
The 9/11 Independent Commission promised the 9/11 families and all of America that testimony by high-ranking officials would be sought starting in January 2004.
The FSC maintains that all high-ranking officials with information relevant to 9/11 should be required to testify and should do so under oath, whether testifying in public or in private. The FSC supports the use of a subpoena for any high-ranking official who refuses to testify.
Without the testimony of high-ranking officials whose job it was to protect and serve the nation pre-9/11, on 9/11, and post-9/11, the Commission will have failed to meet its mandate and its report will be incomplete. The FSC will not accept such an incomplete report.
The FSC respectfully requests that the Commission release a list of all high-ranking officials currently being considered for testimony under oath.
Question #4: Should federal whistleblowers from intelligence agencies, the FAA, and the airlines—whistleblowers with vital, first-hand knowledge about 9/11 failures–be denied access to the 9/11 Commission?
The 9/11 Independent Commission, because of its time-constraints, has been unwilling to include certain specific and highly relevant material regarding 9/11 held by federal whistleblowers. These federal whistleblowers are ready, willing, and able to testify before the Commission as soon as possible. The information these certain individuals share must be made part of the Commission’s investigation and Final Report.
The FSC will not accept the failure of the Commission to interview these whistleblowers. The 9/11 Independent Commission’s mandate will not be met and the Final Report will be incomplete without the inclusion of these individuals’ knowledge and information as it pertains to 9/11.
Question #5: Should Americans be prevented from seeing what information is being withheld from them in the 9/11 Independent Commission’s Final Report?
The 9/11 Independent Commission currently plans to issue a ‘non-classified’ Final Report. The FSC opposes this form for the Final Report. Rather, all redacted material should be apparent to the American people and the 9/11 families. The only way to show such visible redactions is to first issue a ‘classified’ Final Report, followed by a de-classified Final Report, with visible line redactions. Otherwise the Commission will not have met its mandate to provide a transparent investigation into 9/11.
There will never be another opportunity for a comprehensive examination of all the factors leading up to and including the events of September 11th. An extension to January 10, 2005, together with adequate funding, is the only practical -and ethical- way for the Commission to meet its mandate and produce a comprehensive, transparent, and conclusive Final Report.
The FSC (Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission) is a coalition of 9/11 family members who campaigned for the establishment of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The FSC is working to ensure that there is a comprehensive investigation into the individual and systemic failures leading up to and occurring on September 11th. The Commission’s report must encompass accountability as well as substantive recommendations for reform. The FSC holds that once there is recognition of past failures, there must be a concerted, non-partisan effort to make the necessary changes via legislative enactments and other appropriate means, to ensure that this nation is safe from terrorism.
The Family Steering Committee for The 9/11 Independent Commission Statement Regarding The Importance of Gaining Access to the NSC
February 9, 2004
In May 2002, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made a statement that she did not know that planes could be used as missiles. She further stated that the United States government did not have specific information regarding the 9/11 attacks.
As National Security Advisor, it was Condoleezza Rice’s job to know that the historical record was replete with instances of terrorists planning to use planes as missiles. Yet, as admitted in her own words, she did not. Furthermore, as National Security Advisor, it was Condoleezza Rice’s job to coordinate information from the intelligence community and make policy decisions and recommendations to the President, in conjunction with other NSC members, about dealing with terrorist threats. By Ms. Rice’s own admission, she and her fellow NSC members apparently failed in this capacity, too.
The Clinton national security team gave three extensive briefings on the present danger of al Qaeda to the incoming Bush administration. Donald Kerrick, three star general, was Deputy National Security Adviser under President Clinton and served for the first four months of the Bush Administration on the National Security Council. General Kerrick has said that he wrote a memo for the Bush NSC stating, “we will be struck again.” General Kerrick states that he received no response to his memo and was not included in any meetings.
It has also been reported that Richard Clarke, head of counterrorism on the NSC, was very frustrated during the first nine months of the Bush Administration. Clarke was reportedly frustrated because he tried to get the principals committee (the central body of top national security figures in the Administration) to take up terrorism as an issue. The principals in the Bush Administration, according to Clarke, finally discussed terrorism only once when they decided against funding the unmanned predator drone plane over Afghanistan prior to 9/11.
Also reported in the media are the statements and facts regarding the Iraqi war plan. Paul O’Neill writes that the Bush Administration had the Iraq war plan drawn up and finalized in the first few weeks of the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration has not denied this fact. Rather, the Administration has anecdotally stated that every incoming Administration has a desk full of work to sift through, prioritize, and explore. Apparently, the Bush Administration made its number one priority the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In doing so, Bin Laden and his al Qaeda network were ranked lower in priority. Why? Especially since we now know that Iraq was not an “imminent threat” while Al Qaeda apparently in the midst of planning an attack on 9/11 clearly was an imminent threat.
Once again, this issue revolves around the vital flow of intelligence information. Why was information detailing the clear and present danger of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda “downplayed” by this Administration while at the very same time, apparently, the intelligence information regarding Saddam Hussein and Iraq was peppered up. Both of these facts regarding the Bush Administration’s clear failure to prioritize matters of national security have cost lives. Three thousand people were murdered on the morning of 9/11, and thousands have been killed in the war in Iraq.
President Bush aptly stated on Meet the Press (2/08/04) that it is the President’s most solemn responsibility to keep this country secure. President Bush also stated that commissions, in general, must take their time and learn lessons from the past because we live in a dangerous world. Asked if he would submit to questioning by the 9/11 Independent Commission, President Bush replied, “Perhaps, perhaps.” On Meet the Press, President Bush also said he was cooperating with the 9/11 Independent Commission, and specifically cited the agreement on Presidential Daily Briefs.
In light of President Bush’s admission of the importance of cooperation, the 9/11 Independent Commission must request President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice to testify in an open hearing while under oath to answer the following questions:
Questions that need to be answered:
1. Why did the Bush Administration fixate, prioritize, and explore the necessity to go to war in Iraq, while ignoring the clear and present danger of Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda who nine months later killed three thousand people on American soil? Was it the structure of the NSC that caused this failure?
2. Who determined the prioritization of terrorism issues in the early months of the Bush Administration? Who was consulted regarding such policy decisions? Who wrote the Presidential Decisional Directives (PDDs) carrying out such policy decisions? More importantly, what was the nature and substance of those PDDs?
3. Has the 9/11 Independent Commission adequately addressed this issue—namely the failure of the Bush Administration, its NSC, and its Cabinet to properly assess imminent threats posed to this nation’s security?
- Has the 9/11 Independent Commission gained full access to individuals and information to properly investigate this issue? If not, what areas of access must still be gained?
- Who has the 9/11 Independent Commission questioned regarding this issue?
- Has the 9/11 Independent Commission made any “deals” with Administrative officials with regard to the scope of access surrounding this issue? If so, what areas of access are blocked to the 9/11 Independent Commission, as a whole or in part?
The Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding the Failure of the 9/11 Independent Commission to Subpoena the White House
February 10, 2004
The Family Steering Committee (FSC) is outraged by the failure of the 9/11 Independent Commission to subpoena the White House for complete access to the Presidential Daily Briefings.
The public needs to be aware that the President’s statements on Meet the Press, on February 8, 2004, were misleading.
President Bush stated that he is “cooperating” with the 9/11 Independent Commission. Yet the Commission has been negotiating for access to these documents for over 10 months with no success. While the Commission negotiates with the Executive Branch, this nation remains at risk.
We therefore respectfully request that President Bush:
1. Release all relevant material needed by the Commission to complete their investigation into the attacks of 9/11. The release of such information must be made to all Commissioners so that such information can be made part of their Final Report;
2. Testify under oath before the Commission in a public hearing as to his Administration’s failures in preparation of and immediate response to the attacks on 9/11;
3. Support an extension of time for this Commission so it is able to:
a. Conduct the full schedule of public hearings, inclusive of high-ranking officials as witnesses (under oath);
b. Access (for all 10 Commissioners) to all relevant documents, including all PDBs (Presidential Daily Briefings), PDDs (Presidential Decision Directives), and NSPDs (National Security Presidential Directives), and the working notes behind those documents;
c. Thoroughly investigate all relevant facts with regard to this nation’s preparedness for, and immediate response to, the attacks on 9/11, including all available testimony from federal whistleblowers, former and present federal agents/officials, and certain members of foreign governments.
This Administration must legitimately cooperate. Professing cooperation while limiting the time and resources of the Commission, and restricting access to important documents and key witnesses, only serves to further erode the safety and trust of the American people.
Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding 9/11 Independent Commission
February 20, 2004
Part 1: Access to Presidential Daily Briefings
The Family Steering Committee (FSC) maintains that limited access to the PDBs will prevent the 9/11 Commission from providing a comprehensive report on government failures that may have contributed to the loss of life on September 11th. Despite the White House publicly maintaining “full cooperation,” the Commission has been delayed with time-consuming negotiations that have hampered the Commission’s work and led to questionable agreements limiting access to important documents.
The FSC believes that all ten Commissioners should have full access to the PDB’s. Each Commissioner has the highest of security clearance and each provides a different perspective in evaluating the documents.
Because of the secretive nature of the agreements made between the White House and the Commission, the FSC requests that either the White House or the Commission in the interest of transparency release the following information:
1. Any and all written agreements between the Commission and the White House regarding access to the PDBs; and/or any written summaries of any verbal agreement made between the White House and Commission regarding access to the PDBs and/or any series of emails which discuss negotiations between the Commission and the White House with regard to accessing the PDBs.
2. Specific details regarding the amount of editing the White House is permitted prior to the Commission gaining access to this information. The FSC believes that there are at least four levels of editing on behalf of the White House prior to the Commission as a whole receiving information from the PDB articles.
3. An answer as to how this newly negotiated agreement made between the Commission and the White House is different than the original agreement made in November 2003 between the Commission and the White House regarding access to the PDBs.
4. A description as to what exactly the Commission had to “negotiate away” in reaching the current Agreement with the White House. In other words, because this was a negotiation, what documents initially requested did the Commission not gain access to?
5. An explanation as to where the White House breached the original agreement and why the Commission failed to subpoena the White House for full access to the PDBs which would have nullified any need for negotiation.
Part 2: Extension of Deadline until January 10, 2005
The FSC continues to firmly maintain that the Commission’s deadline should be extended to January 10, 2005. We support the bi-partisan and bi-cameral legislation that was recently introduced in Congress that supports the January 10, 2005 deadline. The FSC would encourage all Americans to support the January 10, 2005 deadline so that the 9/11 Independent Commission can:
1. Maintain all public hearings with high-ranking officials under oath;
2. Continue to investigate all new, relevant material related to the attacks of 9/11—especially material recently given to the Commission by whistleblowers, ex-government agents, or agents of foreign governments;
3. Fully access all information, documents, and testimony needed from the Executive Branch with regard to the attacks on 9/11 without having to lose certain elements of information from those documents or testimonials as a result of the elongated negotiation process;
4. Write a transparent, de-classified final report as opposed to non-classified final report. Only a de-classified report can indicate to the American people how much information is being kept secret from them by the use of visible redactions.
After meeting with Chairman Kean on February 11, 2004, we feel that the Commission has no legitimate, valid, non-political reason to oppose the January 2005 deadline. As such at their meeting on February 24, 2004 we request the Commission vote for an extension of January 10, 2005.
The FSC maintains that this Commission and its investigation into the 9/11 attacks must not be held hostage by politics. Furthermore, the FSC maintains that this Commission must be given the time it needs to complete its final report. Finally, the FSC will not accept any attempts by any individual or entity to “embargo” this report or its investigation at any time from now until January 10, 2005. To do so, especially for political reasons is unconscionable.
Any person or entity who stands in the way of giving the Commission the time it needs to carry out its investigation and complete a thorough final report, stands in the way of our national security. Any individual or entity that is either openly or furtively opposed to the January 10, 2005 extension should appear in public and explain to the country their reasons for opposing such extension.
Part 3: Request for Senate Intelligence Committee to Hold Hearings on the 9/11 Independent Commission
The FSC feels that the Independent Commission’s progress has been substantially compromised and hampered. Currently, the Commission has less than optimal access to Executive Branch documents, limited time to complete their investigation, and limited cooperation on behalf of certain high ranking officials to testify under oath in public hearings.
The legislation that created the 9/11 Commission, Law 107-306, was originally attached to the Intelligence Authorization Bill. As such, the FSC is formally requesting that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Roberts and Senator Rockefeller, hold a one-day public hearing on the status of the 9/11 Independent Commission, its investigation into the attacks of 9/11 and its Final Report.
At this hearing we would request the 9/11 Commission formally answer all questions regarding:
1. Its failure to obtain certain Executive Branch documents;
2. Its failure to conduct an aggressive investigation by failing to fully use its subpoena power;
3. Its increasingly apparent failure to complete its report and meet its mandate by the original May 27, 2004 deadline and the reasons behind said failure;
4. Its failure to conduct an adequate number of public hearings on all specific topics listed in its mandate in order to maintain a transparent investigation;
5. Its failure to remove any appearance of impropriety regarding conflicts of interest of Staff Director Philip Zelikow and Commissioner Jamie Gorelick—two individuals interviewed by the Commission as part of their investigation into 9/11, the same to be chosen to have primary access to the PDBs.
6. Its failure to equally include all Commissioners in all aspects of its investigation, for example, some private interviews are currently scheduled with only certain Commissioners and certain information was only made available to selected Commissioners and staff.
7. Its failure to place all witnesses in public and private interviews under oath.
8. Its failure to require public testimony, under oath of high-level government officials from those government agencies in question (i.e. President Bush, Vice- President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.
A letter to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee members is attached hereto. The FSC eagerly awaits the immediate scheduling of such a hearing. A Congressional hearing is the only way this Commission can regain its lost ground, re-focus its investigation, and re-establish good faith in its work product.
Part 4: Letter to Senate Select Intelligence Committee Requesting Hearing on 9/11 Independent Commission
February 20, 2004
Dear Senator Roberts and Senator Rockefeller,
We write to you out of our frustration with the course of the 9/11 Independent Commission.
The Family Steering Committee (FSC) feels that the Independent Commission’s progress has been substantially compromised. Currently, the Commission has less than optimal access to Executive Branch documents, limited time to complete their investigation, and limited cooperation on behalf of certain high ranking officials to testify under oath in public hearings.
The legislation that created the 9/11 Commission, Law 107-306, was originally attached to the Intelligence Authorization Bill. As such, the FSC is formally requesting that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, chaired by you both, hold a one-day public hearing on the status of the 9/11 Independent Commission.
At this hearing we would request the 9/11 Commission answer all questions regarding:
1. Its failure to obtain certain Executive Branch documents;
2. Its failure to conduct an aggressive investigation by failing to fully use its subpoena power;
3. Its increasingly apparent failure to complete its report and meet its mandate by the original May 27, 2004 deadline and the reasons behind said failure;
4. Its failure to conduct an adequate number of public hearings on all specific topics listed in its mandate in order to maintain a transparent investigation;
5. Its failure to remove any appearance of impropriety regarding conflicts of interest of Staff Director Philip Zelikow and Commissioner Jamie Gorelick—two individuals interviewed by the Commission as part of their investigation into 9/11, and the same to be chosen to have primary access to the PDBs;
6. Its failure to equally include all Commissioners in all aspects of its investigation, for example, some private interviews are currently scheduled with only selected Commissioners and certain information was only made available to certain Commissioners and staff.
7. Its failure to place all witnesses in public and private interviews under oath.
8. Its failure to require public testimony, under oath of high-level officials from those government agencies in question, i.e. President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Powell, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Director of Central Intelligence Tenet, and Director of FBI Mueller.
A Congressional hearing is the only way this Commission can regain its lost ground, re-focus its investigation, and re-establish good faith in its work product. We eagerly await your response, and we are hopeful that, you too, will see the serious and absolute need for such a hearing.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission
Statement of the Family Steering Committee for The 9/11 Independent Commission
March 20, 2004
The Family Steering Committee is deeply disturbed to learn about Executive Staff Director Philip Zelikow’s participation in urgent post election briefings, December 2000, and January 2001, with Sandy Berger and Condoleezza Rice. In this particular meeting the Senior Clinton Administration official clearly warned that Al Qaeda posed the worst Security threat facing the nation.
It is apparent that Dr. Zelikow should never have been permitted to be Executive Staff Director of the Commission. As Executive Staff Director his job has been to steer the direction of the Commission’s investigation, an investigation whose mandate includes understanding why the Bush Administrations failed to prioritize the Al Qaeda threat. It is abundantly clear that Dr. Zelikow’s conflicts go beyond just the transition period.
It is extremely distressing to learn this information at this late date. This new information clearly calls into question the integrity of this Commission’s investigation. The Family Steering Committee repeatedly expressed concerns over all members’ conflicts requesting that the commission be forthcoming so as not to taint the validity of the report. The Family Steering Committee did not know about Dr. Zelikow’s participation in this intelligence briefing until today.
As such, the Family Steering Committee is calling for:
1. Dr. Zelikow’s immediate resignation.
2. Dr. Zelikow’s testimony in public and under oath.
3. Subpoena of Dr. Zelikow’s notes from the intelligence briefings he attended with Richard Clarke
4. The Commission to apologize to the 9/11 families and America for this massive appearance of impropriety.
The Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding Condoleezza Rice and Release of 28 Pages
March 27, 2004
The Family Steering Committee demands the appearance of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice under oath in a public hearing immediately. We believe that testifying before the Commission in a public forum is Ms. Rice’s moral obligation given her responsibility as National Security Advisor to protect our nation. The death of nearly 3000 innocent people warrants such a moral precedent.
We further request Richard Clarke, Samuel Berger, Brent Scowcroft, and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley also be present, under oath, and made part of the same panel as Dr. Rice.
We have attached a list of questions that must be addressed during this hearing. In addition to these questions, we would also appreciate the reconciliation of various issues that were raised on behalf of Mr. Clarke during this past week’s hearings. Furthermore, we would request the examination and discussion of the following issues:
1. The draft report of the 2001 NSPD-5 Presidential Commission on Intelligence Reform chaired by General Brent Scowcroft.
2. Budget requests made by various agencies since 1998 so as to compare those requests within the agencies from which they originated, within the Administration, and by Congress.
3. The NSC policy options paper, prepared by Richard Clarke’s office during Spring 2001 which proposed a change in US policy regarding [————]. (Joint Inquiry Report, Appendix, NSC Document Request, July 1, 2002, enclosure to Condoleezza Rice letter dated July 8, 2002)
4. The after-action report on the Millennium prepared by the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism’s office.
We would encourage White House counsel to view this commission for what it is— a quasi-legislative entity. After all, Chairman Kean is an Executive Branch appointee to the Commission. Furthermore, the mere fact that the Commission has gained access—albeit limited access, to the Presidential Daily Briefings (something that the Joint Inquiry of Congress was refused for reasons of Separation of Powers principles) further supports the notion that this Commission is not a purely legislative body.
Assuming arguendo that White House counsel continues to persist that a legal precedent might be presented, Dr. Rice should testify to set a moral precedent that is aptly warranted by the murder of 3000 people. Voluntarily coming forward to testify under oath during a public hearing without the use of a subpoena would simply set a rare, refreshing, and appropriate moral precedent for all of history to judge.
Finally, in light of recent actions on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Frist, we also request the de-classification of the infamous 28 blank pages of the Joint Inquiry Final Report. The Saudi government stated to the media in August, 2003 that they would like the 28 pages released. Members of the Joint Inquiry have stated on the record that the 28 pages did not include national security secrets. Nevertheless, the White House continues to refuse to release said information on grounds of national security.
One of the underlying themes of this past week’s hearings was the failure to garner the “will of the nation.” One way to arouse the will of the nation is to engage the American people in healthy debate and dialogue. In order to have the will, the nation must be properly informed. As such, we encourage the release of the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry Final Report that pertains to the foreign sponsorship of terrorism.
We hope that Senator Frist will show the same zeal to release the 28 pages as he has shown in de-classifying Mr. Clarke’s testimony. We request that all witness testimony to the Joint Inquiry of Congress be impartially reviewed and declassified if possible. We abhor the tendency to over-classify information and we support the release of any material as long such public release does not legitimately harm national security.
Questions For Condoleezza Rice from the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Appendix
1. As stated in the Appendix of the Joint Inquiry of Congress’ Final Report:
“Despite the White House decision [to deny access to the PDBs], the Joint Inquiry was advised by Intelligence Community representatives of the content of an August 2001 PDB item that is discussed in the report. This glimpse into that PDB indicated the importance of such access [-]*
*National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated in a May 16, 2002 press briefing that, on August 6, 2001, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) included information about Bin Ladin’s methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997. One of the methods was that Bin Ladin might choose to hijack an airliner in order to hold passengers hostage to gain release of one of their operatives. She stated, however, that the report did not contain specific warning information, but only a generalized warning, and did not contain information that al-Qa’ida was discussing a particular planned attack against a specific target at any specific time, place, or by any specific method.” (Joint Inquiry Final Report, Appendix, “Access Limitations Encountered by the Joint Inquiry,” pages 1-2).
Ms. Rice can you reconcile this intimated discrepancy?
Terrorism as a Policy Priority
1. During your time as National Security Advisor, what priorities did you establish for U.S. Intelligence priorities and where did terrorism fit in? How did this change from the priorities of the Clinton administration?
2. How were these priorities conveyed to the intelligence Community? Did the intelligence Community propose any changes in priority with regard to counterterrorism or al-Qa’ida? What were they?
3. Prior to September 11, who at the National Security Council and the U.S. government played a leading role in setting counterterrorism policy? Who else was involved in this process? Please describe the process, the participants and the fora.
4. Prior to September 11, did Congress support the NSC’s counterterrorism efforts? Did Congress oppose NSC priorities related to terrorism in any way? Please provide details of both, as appropriate.
5. Was Richard Clarke, the National Coordinator for counterterrorism, included all in Principals’ meetings related to terrorism after January 2002? If not, why not? How was it determined who would be involved in such meetings? What was his role in counterterrorism policy and intelligence prioritization after January 2002?
6. During the transition from the Clinton administration, did former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger or other senior Clinton NSC officials provide any advice, information, warning, or guidance requiring policy, priorities, or threats from al-Qa’ida and Bin Ladin? If so, what was the advice, information, warning, or guidance?
7. Prior to September 11, was the Administration engaged in a review of counterterrorism policy? What issues were identified for change? What stage were plans in? What changes in the role of the intelligence Community, if any, were planned? What happened to the review after the September 11 attacks?
8. When the new Administration came into office, was it aware that Usama bin Ladin had declared war on the United States in 1998? Who provided this information, and how was it provided? What was the impact of that fact on the Administration’s national security priorities? How did it affect the intelligence Community’s posture?
9. Prior to September 11, did the President or other senior officials in the administration make any public statements or give any speeches on the subject of the threat of terrorism, or Usama bin Ladin’s terrorist network in particular? If so, please make copies available to the (Joint Inquiry Staff)?
1. Prior to September 11, did the Intelligence Community come to the new Administration with any requests for additional counterterrorism resources, e.g. additional funding? Who made the request, and what was the nature of the proposal?
2. Did the Intelligence Community ask the Administration for more resources to fight Usama bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida? Who made this request?
3. Did the Intelligence Community ever cite a lack of resources as the basis for not acting? If so, provide details and the NSC response.
4. When the DCI, Director of NSA, and FBI Director requested more counterterrorism resources, what was the stated justification for their requests?
5. What was the NSC’s response to each specific Intelligence Community request for any increases in resources for counterterrorism? For al-Qa’ida?
Agency responsiveness and support for policy makers
1. What specific strengths did you observe in intelligence collection, analysis, and reporting on Bin Ladin, al-Qa’ida or terrorism in general prior to September 11? What specific weaknesses? Please provide specific examples of each.
2. What was the quality of intelligence received by the NSC? Did the NSC make any efforts to improve this quality?
3. With respect to Intelligence Community counterterrorism efforts prior to September 11, how responsive were the CIA, the FBI, NSA, and DIA?
- Did they provide the President and the National Security Council with the information needed to make informed decisions?
- Did the agencies use their authority aggressively? Did they cite limits or a lack of authority as a basis for no action?
- Did they shift resources appropriately in response to NSC direction?
- Did the NSC provide any specific tasking to Intelligence Community agencies to which they did not respond? Please provide specific examples.
Threat to the homeland
1. Prior to September 11, including especially spring/summer 2001, what information did the Intelligence Community provide to the National Security Council, orally or in writing, indicating the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the United States?
2. Prior to September 11, what information did the Intelligence Community provide to the National Security Council on al-Qa’ida activities and infrastructure inside the United States?
3. Prior to September 11, did the National Security Council ever consider alerting the American people to the internal threat from al-Qa’ida? What happened?
4. Did the National Security Council ever consider enhancing U.S. border controls, e.g., by strengthening watchlist programs, alerting the FAA or the airlines, or inspecting cargo containers on a larger scale? If so, what happened?
5. Prior to September 11, what was the National Security council’s view regarding how well postured the FBI was with respect to combating terrorist groups inside the United States? What steps were taken to improve the FBI, if any?
6. Prior to September 11, did the Intelligence Community provide the NSC with any information regarding the possibility that al-Qa’ida members would use airplanes as weapons or hijack airplanes in the United States? What did the NSC do in response to this information?
1. Prior to September 11, which foreign governments were most and least helpful regarding counterterrorism? How were they helpful or not helpful in each case?
2. Prior to September 11, were the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan supportive of U.S. counterterrorism efforts? How responsive were European allies? What priority was counterterrorism cooperation in Saudi Arabia relative to military operations against Iraq, the Middle East peace negotiations, and other concerns?
3. Did Intelligence Community agencies ask for NSC assistance in getting foreign governments to take action against terrorist cells? Did the NSC take any specific actions to support the Intelligence Community? What did the NSC do? Did the NSC ask or instruct the State Department or the Department of Defense to assist the intelligence Community in this regard?
4. Prior to September 11, was there any discussion of increasing information sharing and/or counterterrorism cooperation with the Sudan?
Use of Force/Overt and Covert
1. Prior to September 11, did the National Security Council consider the use of military force against al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan? How? In what form? Why was it not pursued? Was there sufficient intelligence to support military options? Was their tasking to gain further intelligence to support military operations?
2. Prior to September 11, did the National Security Council issue any tasking to the CIA or the U.S. military to develop plans involving the covert or overt use of force?
3. Prior to September 11, did the National Security Council ever review the CIA’s authorities to conduct covert action against Bin Ladin or al-Qa’ida? What problems were identified regarding existing authorities, [———–]? Were there any proposals to change those authorities before September 11th? What steps were taken?
4. Prior to September 11, was the unarmed Predator flown in Afghanistan after the Bush Administration came into office? Were proposals made to the NSC to fly it? Which participants favored flying it? If it was not flown, why not?
5. Did the National Security Council support the development of the armed Predator? Did any administration official try to expedite the process? Were any discussions held on this issue at the NSC? Who participated?
6. Did you consider [————]? Why or why not? What impact did you expect?
7. Why was there no military response to the attack on the USS Cole? Was this considered?
1. What recommendations would you make to improve the intelligence community’s performance?
The Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding Condoleezza Rice’s Testimony
March 30, 2004
The Family Steering Committee is pleased to learn that Condoleezza Rice will testify under oath in a public hearing.
This is good news and will undoubtedly make the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report more complete, comprehensive, and transparent in nature.
More than anything, the families want to know why our nation was so vulnerable to 19 hijackers on the morning of 9/11. We look forward to Ms. Rice answering questions about her priorities as National Security Advisor to the President, the processes used before, and after, 9/11 to share critical intelligence and other related data regarding this country’s counter terrorism activities within the government, her knowledge of Al-Qaeda, and her role, and the role of the NSC–leading up to, on, and after the morning of 9/11.
We are hopeful that the information gleaned from Ms. Rice’s public testimony can be used by the Commission as part of their investigation and be included in their Final Report and Recommendations to help minimize the chances of a future attack and thus, save lives.
Upon the signing of the 9/11 Commission into law, President Bush stated that the Commission’s work was their most solemn duty. He also stated that the Commission must go wherever the facts may lead. We hope that the following qualifying language presented in the letter to the Commission regarding Ms. Rice’s testimony does not now contradict these words:
“The Commission must agree in writing that it will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice. The National Security Advisor is uniquely situated to provide the Commission with information necessary to fulfill its statutory mandate. Indeed, it is for this reason that Dr. Rice privately met with the Commission for more than four hours on February 7, fully answered every question posed to her, and offered additional private meetings if necessary. Despite the fact that the Commission will therefore have access to all information of which Dr. Rice is aware, the Commission has nevertheless urged that public confidence in the work of the Commission would be enhanced by Dr. Rice appearing publicly before the Commission. Other White House officials with information relevant to the Commission’s inquiry do not come within the scope of the Commission’s rationale for seeking public testimony from Dr. Rice. These officials will continue to provide the Commission with information through private meetings, briefings, and documents, consistent with our previous practice.”
Consistent with Bush’s statement upon the formation of the Commission, the FSC sincerely hopes that the commission will be given full and unfettered access to any officials in the White House whom they feel it is necessary to interview under oath.
The above condition, which prohibits them from seeking further public testimony, is of particular concern because decisions made by those officials on the day of 9/11 are critically important to provide a full accounting to the American public.
Nevertheless, the families are cautiously optimistic that Dr. Rice’s public appearance before the Commission will enhance its ability to produce the kind of Final Report that the nation deserves.
Statement of the Family Steering Committee Regarding the Need for an Independent, Nonpartisan 9/11 Commission
April 1, 2004
Recent press reports and activities raise the concern that the independent and nonpartisan nature of the 9/11 Commission is being compromised. The Family Steering Committee (FSC) is very concerned about these recent developments.
First, according to an article in today’s Washington Post, entitled, “Bush Counsel Called 9/11 Panelist Before Clarke Testified,” White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had ex parte communication with at least one of the Commissioners, Fred Fielding, prior to Richard Clarke testifying before the Commission last week. The Washington Post also reports that Commissioner James R. Thompson might have also had contact with White House staff. Commissioners Thompson and Fielding refuse to answer as to whether they had these ex parte communications. These ex-parte communications raise serious concerns regarding the impartiality of these commissioners and questions about whether the Commission has been sidetracked from its mandate to focus on the facts and circumstances of 9/11.
The Family Steering Committee (FSC) calls upon both the White House and the 9/11 Independent Commission to answer the crippling allegations raised by the Washington Post. Critical to the success of the work of the 9/11 Commission is its ability to remain nonpartisan and independent. Ultimately at risk are the integrity, transparency and comprehensiveness of the Commission’s Final Report and its Recommendations.
Second, we request the genesis of Commissioner Fielding and Thompson’s line of questioning to Mr. Clarke. In addition, both Commissioner Fielding and Thompson should sign an affidavit that they alone researched, prepared, and gathered their own information in preparation for Mr. Clarke’s testimony.
Third, the Family Steering Committee requests an explanation as to how a “background briefing” from FOX NEWS was obtained by Commissioner James R. Thompson. We would like to know who ordered the release of that background briefing and whether Commission staff was used in the retrieval of that information.
Fourth, we call for the sweeping de-classification of the entire transcript of Richard Clarke’s testimony before the Joint Inquiry of Congress and the 9/11 Independent Commission. Further, we request the declassification of Dr. Rice’s testimony, as well as all supporting documents (such as emails, memos and correspondence) between Mr. Clark, Dr. Rice, Stephen Hadley and others involved in making decisions related to national security. We abhor the over-classification of information, and support the public release of all information so long as it does not legitimately harm national security.
Fifth, we request that going forward the Commission record and transcribe all private and public testimony, from whatever source – even the President and Vice President, in order to accurately preserve these historical testimonies. It has been reported that the Commission failed to record National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s private testimony on February 7, 2004. The failure of the 9/11 Commission to record Dr. Rice’s testimony further calls into question this Commission’s methods in conducting its investigation.
Sixth, we respectfully request that President Bush and Vice President Cheney reconsider their decision to testify together. Their testimony should be separate, in public and under oath so that the Commission can properly comprehend the individual responsibilities and decisions of the President and Vice President. Individual testimonies would provide the American public a much clearer understanding of the Administration’s leadership during a time of transition and crisis.
Finally, the Family Steering Committee continues to oppose the condition agreed to between the White House and the Commission in exchange for Dr. Rice’s public testimony. Information gathered by the ongoing investigation of the 9/11 Commission may warrant future public testimony of other White House officials.
Statement of the Family Steering Committee Regarding Conflicts of Interest and the 9/11 Commission
April 18, 2004
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission feels compelled to address recent comments by the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. President George W. Bush signed the 9/11 Commission into law on November 27, 2002. In its Congressional charge, the Commission was to begin its investigation into the facts surrounding the 9/11 attacks where the Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (“JICI”) ended in order to not duplicate efforts.
In December 2002, the JICI held as one of its 19 Findings and Recommendations that the “evidentiary wall” present between criminal search warrants and FISA warrants—and the field agents lack of full understanding between these two standards of proof, was one example of our nation’s inability to fight terrorism pre-9/11. In short, the “Reno wall” was an item that was fully investigated and ultimately addressed as a Finding by the JICI.
The FSC brings this fact to the attention of the press since Rep. DeLay and Rep. Sennsenbrenner have decided to question Commissioner Jamie Gorelick’s involvement in drafting a memorandum that ratified and raised this evidentiary wall. Commissioner Gorelick’s involvement with the wall is not a new revelation however. In accordance with the Commission’s policy on conflicts of interest, as is the case with all the Commissioners, she has fully recused herself from questioning and debate surrounding issues with which she was personally involved, including discussion on the evidentiary wall.
Two areas not investigated by the JICI include the National Security Council and the Presidential Daily Briefings, the daily intelligence reports written for the President.
While the JICI attempted numerous times to access the minutes of the NSC meetings, the articles contained in the PDBs, certain budgetary information, and to interview National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Joint Inquiry’s dogged requests were wholly refused and/or denied by the White House on separation of powers grounds.
Rep. DeLay insinuates throughout his letter to Governor Kean that commissioners (including Commissioner Gorelick) are acting in contravention to the nation’s best interests. Rep. DeLay decries the “partisanship” and “self-promotion” that he claims threatens the commission’s credibility. Yet one must question Rep. DeLay’s motives in seeking the removal of Commissioner Gorelick.
Interestingly, after eleven months of negotiation with the White House, Jamie Gorelick is the only Commissioner that was given “full” access to relevant highly classified Executive Branch information – including PDBs and NSC notes – regarding our nation’s ability to defend itself against 19 hijackers on the morning of 9/11 – information that was never before examined by any non-Executive Branch investigative entity. The resignation of Ms. Gorelick would cause this information to remain un-investigated and un-addressed by the 9/11 Independent Commission in its Final Report. And, thus, our nation will not gain the benefit of this Executive Branch information in order to carry on the dialogue and debate regarding our ability to effectively and successfully fight the war on terrorism.
The Family Steering Committee was always and continues to be highly concerned with conflicts of interest. We have raised this issue a number of times in our past press releases. We continue to maintain that this Commission’s work and its Final Report must not descend into partisan politics.
The Commission’s work and its Final Report are of the utmost importance. We believe that the Commission’s Final Report will serve as an excellent way to honor the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11, by proving that we can admit to, examine, and learn from our mistakes and failures of the past.
Finally the Commission’s public hearings – with high-ranking officialsunder oath – while not perfect, prove that democracy can, indeed, work and ultimately prevail. Though we acknowledge that the Commission is a creation of Congress, we are just as cognizant of its independent nature; we would ask Rep. DeLay to acknowledge this and ask for him to respect its crucial mission by not distracting it from its important work, which will restore faith and confidence of the American people in our government.
Op-ed Submission to the Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2004
What is a Citizen to Do?
How could 19 middle-eastern men simultaneously hijack 4 commercial airplanes in two hours, crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and murder 3000 innocent people?
With the billions spent each year on defense and intelligence, why did our nation do so little in a defensive posture to mitigate the vast devastation that was brought upon us by these 19 men?
Our research began with every agency and every policy that could possibly shed some light on why the tragedy of 9/11 was not averted. With each revelation and each new understanding, our naïveté waned and the challenges loomed large. The problems were systemic in nature. Changes were needed everywhere. Agencies, 20 years after the Cold War had ended, were still operating in a Cold War posture. Terrorists were not watch-listed. FBI computers were antiquated. Intelligence agents and supervisors failed to analyze and investigate creatively, aggressively, and with curiosity. Congress and the Executive Branch failed to properly share their growing National Security concerns and garner the will of the nation to fight this new war against terrorism. The media was more prone to cover scandal than terrorism.
Our research revealed that numerous indicators throughout our intelligence history illustrated the use, or intended use of planes as missiles. We found field reports, case files and studies, eye witness testimony, intelligence community threat matrices, and Department of Defense mock drills all addressing the “planes as missiles” idea.
In fact, during the summer of 2001, President Bush attended the G-8 summit in Genoa,Italy where specific protections were put into place to ward against an air attack. Moreover, FBI agents testified in the Embassy bombing trial in NYC during the spring of 2001 that al-Qaeda was interested in suicide hijackers flying planes into buildings—buildings like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Finally, we learned that the Olympic games in Atlanta and Salt Lake City had included aerial attacks in their security protocols.
Indeed, most haunting is what we found out about Al-Qaeda and their attempt to attack Atlanta, Georgia during the summer Olympics. Because of the heightened protection and alert status during the Atlanta Games, al-Qaeda got “spooked” and called off their planned attack. And thus began the “what ifs?”
What if the pre-9/11 national security apparatus’, agencies and institutions had matched themselves with similar alert levels? What if the 19 hijackers on 9/11 noticed that same type of vigilant security, gotten spooked themselves and delayed their attack by days or even months? More potently, would such a delay have given enough time to our Intelligence Community to discover and/or minimize the damage of the plot?
Could the FBI have had enough time to receive the FISA warrant on Zaccharias Moussaoui? Afterall, the FBI had enough information to meet probable cause for a FISA warrant because French intelligence in August 2001 had handed over a huge file on Moussaoui linking him to terrorist groups. Moreover, given the fact that Moussaoui was attending the same flight school that the FBI had investigated since 1998 because of the many known middle-eastern terrorists training there, maybe the FBI could have applied for and received a simple criminal warrant.
Perhaps, the internal decision in May 2001 by FISA Court Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth that had a “chilling effect” on all FBI surveillance and wiretapping of terrorist organizations-including Al-Qaeda cells in the US, during the spring and summer 2001 could have been lifted or at the very least tempered?
Or maybe the hijackers could have been watch-listed and forbidden to fly on commercial flights? What if the airline pilots were told that hijackers were capable of flying commercial airliners and to not allow anyone into the cockpit-whether or not they were in uniform? What if airport security was told to be on the lookout for possible terrorist suspects and/or contraband such as gas masks, mace, pepper spray, guns and/or knives?
Could the NSA have translated the phone conversations or intercepts of the hijackers, Bin Laden, Bin Laden family members, and other Al-Qaeda operatives that they had in their possession throughout the summer and early fall of 2001? Could the NSA have acted on and/or communicated this information to the FBI, CIA, and National Security Council in time?
Perhaps, FBI Agent David Frasca may have had the time to read the Phoenix memorandum and the Moussaoui information both of which were on his desk by August 2001 and put the two files together?
Could the FBI have had the time to find two of the hijackers, Al-Midhar and Al-hazmi, who were already under investigation for two years by CIA after CIA had conducted surveillance on a terrorist meeting in Malaysia in January 2000? After all, Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi were living in San Diego, listed in the phone book, had bank accounts in their own names, trained at flight schools and resided with a known FBI informant?
Could CIA have found Marwan Al-Shehi? He was Mohammed Atta’s roommate and visited the same flight school that Moussaoui was arrested at by the FBI. CIA had the name “Marwan” and a phone number given to them by the German government. Could they have had the time to follow-up with this information?
Could our National Security Council’s Principals who first met on September 4, 2001 had more time to hold a second meeting where they could have discussed the threat spikes and foreign government warnings from Russia, Israel, Germany, and Egypt that Al-Qaeda was planning an imminent and spectacular attack on the domestic US? Would our NSC Principals have had the time to harden our homeland security?
Could NORAD have placed fighter jets on shorter alert status, so that our air defense did not arrive too late like it did on 9/11? Perhaps, with over an hour’s worth of notice before the attack on the Pentagon, the F-16’s could have arrived on time to protect our Department of Defense.
Could we learn from this tragedy so that it would not be repeated? Could our fellow citizens be willing to shed sunlight onto the inadequacies of our government’s ability to defend itself against terrorism? Could our elected officials cease the diversionary tactics of “mudslinging” and “name-calling” long enough to allow the facts to be revealed, examined, and fixed? Could the media no longer fall prey to sensational stories and feed the public information that truly informs and educates them about our nation’s ability to fight terrorism?
Democracy cannot prosper on blind-faith. To work effectively, democracy’s foundation -the people, must be well informed. And, in order to be more informed, more responsive, and more prepared for the challenges ahead, we must continue to ask questions to our leaders; that is our duty as responsible citizens. It is why the 9/11 Independent Commission’s investigative work, public hearings, public Final Report and public Recommendations are so vital.
The only way elected officials, agencies and institutions can be held accountable and responsible is if we, the American people, stay vigilant and informed. Before 9/11, the will of the nation to fight terrorism was not present. Post 9/11, the will of this nation exists to confront the battle of terrorism.
But fighting terrorism is not simply an offensive strategy. It is a combined and cumulative process. We need the intelligence agencies to investigate more creatively and aggressively. We need our judicial process to permit the fair and just prosecution of terrorists. We need our foreign policy to issue sanctions to all countries that sponsor terrorism, even if that means our foreign economic dependency suffers. We need our Treasury Department to have the resources to dry up money lines that fund terrorist organizations. We need big business interests to yield to the common good.
Our elected officials who take an oath of office to lead, protect, and serve need to be held responsible and accountable. They must have the courage and curiosity to ask questions, to have established and reliable plans and back-up plans, to demand action, reforms and to welcome personal responsibility.
Most importantly, our elected officials need to remember that they are serving at the will of the people. As our public stewards, it should not be the sanctity of their own political well-being that most consumes their actions and decisions. More correctly, it should be the safety, security and well-being of the people that they serve that should pre-occupy their time.
In a post-9/11 world, it is the responsible preservation of all life that must transcend politics.
Lorie Van Auken
An open letter to former Mayor Giuliani from the Family Steering Committee
5 Times Square
NY, NY 10036
May 22, 2004
Dear Mr. Giuliani,
At the 9/11 Public Hearings you announced that all the anger and blame should be focused on the 19 terrorists who piloted the planes. You went on in your press conferences to state that you understood that the comments from the crowd were due misplaced anger from the grieving process. We respectfully disagree with you on both accounts.
It is true that on September 11th, nineteen terrorists were responsible for murdering nearly 3000 people. But the terrorists could not have succeeded if there had not been loopholes, inefficiency, and lack of collaboration, communication and coordination in our national security system. Something went terribly wrong which allowed the terrorists to launch a surprise attack here in America, using hijacked airplanes. All the factors, which contributed to the death of so many on September 11th, must be identified and corrected. Certainly, the terrorists are at the top of the list, but there is much more to this story and it cannot be swept under the rug, as if it does not exist.
Your statement, ” Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us,” implies that asking questions about our government’s knowledge, preparedness and response prior to and on 9/11 is somehow wrong. To suggest that an investigation is synonymous with attacking each other is a deliberate misrepresentation of the goals and work of the Commission whose mandate is to tell the full story and make recommendations for correcting the problems.
First and foremost our government is obligated to protect us. That means it must be honest about what went wrong. If our internal security and emergency response problems are not corrected, terrorists may once again succeed in killing many innocent Americans. When the Commission suggests that the emergency response might have operated more efficiently with one command center overseeing the entire operation, or someone posits that many fire fighters might have been saved if their radios had been working properly, that in no way reflects on the heroism we witnessed that terrible day.
Nothing can diminish the valor of the civilians who tried to help those who were injured or trapped, or the heroism of the Police, the Firefighters or the EMS personnel who rushed into the burning buildings to save lives. Thousands of lives were saved by their bravery. The survivors and the families of those they tried to rescue will never forget the sacrifice of those who gave their lives trying to help. All Americans salute the heroes of 9/11 and honor the memory of those who perished.
The families who vented at this last hearing did not do so out of misplaced anger. They did so out of frustration–frustration that significant issues like non-functioning fire fighter radios were not being publicly addressed. To ignore what went wrong will undoubtedly put lives at risk.
We are calling on you, Mayor Giuliani, to once again display the courage and leadership that you exhibited on 9/11. Instead attempting to deflect attention from the flaws in our national security system and concerns about the emergency response, by commenting that only the terrorists were responsible, it would be refreshing and courageous for you and other leaders to publicly acknowledge some of the things that went wrong. Such an acknowledgement would go a long way to restoring trust in our government and faith that our government officials understand that those issues must be corrected if New York and the nation are to be more secure and better able to handle the next attack.
The Family Steering Committee
FSC Statement Regarding the Hearings on June 16th and 17th
June 14, 2004
The success of the 9/11 terrorist plot was possible due to the failures of many government agencies; one critical area was our intelligence agencies. In recognition of this, an investigation was conducted, known as “The Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” (JICI). However, the committee ended its investigation without completing its work. In addition, since the JICI was only charged with investigating intelligence, that meant that the scope of its mandate was too narrow. Among other goals, the 9/11 Commission was to take up where the JICI left off.
The 9/11 attacks occurred despite many warnings, some of which are only now being publicized. But even though there was a collective failure by those responsible for our national security to heed these warnings, our country should have been able to defend itself from an air attack. 9/11 was a massive defense failure. One cause may have been the deviations from normal hijacking protocols by the FAA and NORAD.
As a result, standard intercept protocols were fatally delayed. Why was Joint Chief of Staff, General Myers, not notified of the attacks until after the Pentagon was hit? Where was the country’s leadership while this was transpiring? Why did the Secret Service delay in moving the President from a publicized location? Why did Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was in the Pentagon when it was struck, remain in his office despite knowing the country was under attack? Why did the President continue to listen to the children read?
There were numerous military exercises planned for 9/11. Mass confusion ensued when these exercises coincided with the terrorist attacks, which adversely affected NORAD’s response time. Who was responsible for alerting those who should have been aware of the precise nature of these exercises, so that they would not be confused with a real emergency?
The upcoming 9/11 Commission hearing is an opportunity to elicit information about these critical gaps. We hope (in contrast to the recent hearing in New York) the rigorous and thorough questioning of the witnesses on these topics will be the rule – rather than the exception.
The following are the FSC questions regarding the FAA and NORAD that we have given to the Commission. We look forward to finally learning the answers at the hearing next week:
Questions for Dr. Matthias Krauss, Federal Prosecutor, Federal Republic of Germany
The U.S. Government refused to turn over 9/11 mastermind Ramzi Binalshibh or his sworn testimony, to help you prosecute Mr. Mzoudi in his terrorism trial in Germany.
- How do you feel about that?
- What would you have needed from the United States Government to successfully prosecute Mzoudi?
- Why do you think that the U.S. did not give this important prosecution its full cooperation?
1. Please provide a specific timeline for each of the four aircraft, which includes all FAA notifications and responses on the morning of September 11th, and the exact times at which air traffic controllers notified the FAA of a possible hijacking of each aircraft.
2. Please explain discrepancies between the FAA and NORAD account of the September 11th timeline, specifically regarding the time that NORAD was notified.
3. Why did FAA rescind the rule allowing guns in cockpits two months before the terror attacks? What prompted the decision to disallow a regulation which had been in existence for 40 years?
4. Leading up to 9/11, were all “Red Team” recommendations incorporated into the airlines/airports security measures? If not, why? Are “Red Teams” still permitted to check the airlines/airports for security lapses?
5. What is the procedure/protocol for determining which names are included on the State Department “Watch List” and on the airlines’ “No Fly” list?
6. What was the FAA’s protocol for notifying other agencies (NORAD, Secret Service, White House, FBI, Dept. of Transportation, Department of Defense) in the event of a hijacking? Was protocol followed? What were the precise times of these notifications?
7. Nine of the hijackers were selected for special security screenings, two for irregularities in identification documents, six for extra-scrutiny by a computer screening program and one because he was traveling with a questionable individual.
- In each case, who made the decision to permit the hijacker to board the plane?
- Did the person making the decision have access to terrorist watch lists?
- Did anyone check the watch lists and their immigration status?
- Were any of the nine on any watch lists?
- Did the airline ticketing agents have access to terrorist watch lists?
- Did the screeners have access to terrorist watch lists?
- Did INS agents at the airport participate in the screening?
- Are there airport security video tapes of them being questioned?
- What exactly were the irregularities in identification?
- Which two had these irregularities?
- What was done during the course of the detainment of these two individuals?
- What questions were asked?
- Was anything confiscated?
- With regard to the remaining seven hijackers, what was the list of questions asked of them?
- Who interrogated them?
- Was anything confiscated?
- Where are the logs and records and incident reports from these detainments?
8. Why did three foreign owned airline security screening companies have their liability levels capped in the Homeland Security Bill? Who is responsible for this? What was the reasoning?
9. According to Federal Code, the FAA Administrator and the FBI Director share joint responsibility for assessing the threats to domestic aviation. Part of their task is to carry out periodic assessments of security at each airport in the system.
- When were Logan, Dulles and Newark airports, the three airports from which the terrorists departed, last evaluated prior to September 11th?
- What were the observations, conclusions and recommendations at each airport?
- Were there follow-up assessments in the case of deficiencies?
- Are the nation’s airports routinely assessed?
- Is there a written plan coordinating the activities of the FAA , US Customs, INS and other law enforcement personnel?
10. Was Logan Airport sanctioned for its repeated failure to meet FAA standards for airline security?
- If Logan was sanctioned, how much was it fined?
- Was the original fine paid in full?
- Who was responsible for ensuring that Logan Airport met its airport/
- airline security requirements?
11. Was there a gun on AA Flight 11?
12. Who initially stated that the hijackers carried box-cutters as weapons? Who determined which weapons were used? Who conducted the passenger search prior to boarding?
13. Box cutters were found on two planes grounded on September 11th. The box cutters were found under adjoining seat cushions on a flight out of Boston. Others were found in a trash bin on a plane bound from Atlanta to Brussels. Why weren’t FAA guidelines followed regarding banned items, such as box cutters, mace or pepper spray?
14. Why has the FBI not invited the NTSB into the investigation?
15. Where are the “black boxes”, voice recorders and transcripts from all four crash sites? Who is assessing the data obtained from those sources? What information about the hijacking do they provide?
16. In the months preceding the terrorist attacks, were any security directives or emergency amendments issued? Were the FAA information circulars, directives and amendments passed on to air traffic controllers, the security agencies hired by the airlines to screen passengers, as well as the INS and Customs agents and other airport ground security personnel?
17. What was the FAA protocol for determining when to notify airline and airport security agencies of threats?
18. What communication did the crew have with the airline and/or the control tower or other aircraft prior to/during the hijacking? Where are all transcripts from Air Traffic Control? Where are all logs and records from the FAA?
19. It is reported that there were no security cameras in the boarding areas at Logan Airport. Is there security camera film of the hijackers from Newark and Dulles airports? If so, where is this film now? If not, why not?
20. Have the passenger manifests been released? If not, why not?
- Were there any discrepancies in the manifests?
- Did the names and number of passengers match?
- Were each of the hijackers listed on the manifest and assigned to a seat?
- Have all passengers been identified by DNA?
21. Please explain the unusually light passenger load of the four hijacked planes. Were there seats purchased for whom no one showed up? If so, please be specific about the number on each flight, who purchased the seats and the purchase point.
22. Why were fines for airline security violations pared to 10 cents on the dollar, despite repeated violations? Please discuss Congressional influence on FAA decisions regarding fines and implementation safety regulations.
23. Why did the FAA allow safety and security violations to persist?
24. Why were timelines scrapped from the 1996 Gore Commission’s final recommendations? Other security recommendations which were not implemented include:
- measures for preventing illegal intrusion into restricted areas;
- determining the terrorism vulnerability of our nation’s airports;
- a procedure for communicating secure information about possible terrorists to the FAA;
- protecting aircraft from surface to air missiles;
- and requiring fingerprinting of anyone with access to secure areas.
Have all the outstanding security recommendations of the Gore Commission been implemented as of today?
25. The Secret Service was able to monitor FAA radar screens. At what point did the Secret Service become aware that 1) four planes had been hijacked and 2) our country was under attack? Once this information was known, what protocol was followed?
26. Flight Explorer is a Virginia based company that sells FAA radar data to the airlines. It tracked 3 of the flights on 9/11 (from what we understand, they didn’t track flight 93). ( LATimes 9/17/2001) Walter Kross is the technical specialist at this Company. We have been told over and over that no one knew where the planes were. If Flight Explorer has the data, which according to this article includes the plane’s speed, altitude and precise direction, why did they not know where the planes were? Walter Kross and his company’s records should be brought in for questioning.
27. When a person is pulled for screening at the airport what is the protocol that follows (a selectee)? Who decides whether it is then ok for them to board the plane? Who determined that the 9 hijackers who were stopped on 9/11 could subsequently board the planes? What were their scores on CAPPS? Why weren’t sky marshals put on those flights?
28. Why did the FAA prohibit Salmon Rushdie from flying in the U.S. and Canada, prior to 9/11? Why were orders that extreme constraining security measures be implemented on all flights on which Mr. Rushdie was booked be implemented according to Air Canada spokesperson, Pricilla Le Blanc? The document also stated that “should Mr. Rushdie attempt to make a reservation or present himself at the airport, he is not to be accepted for carriage.”
29. With regard to AA Flight 11, the flight departed at 7:59 A.M. on the morning of 9/11. After the Controller’s cruising altitude command wasn’t followed, the plane was a suspected hijacking. At 8:19 A.M. the plane’s transponder was shut off. “We have more planes, we have other planes” was heard by the controller’s on the ground. The plural “planes” was clearly used. Was this not a clear indication that there were other hijacked planes in the air?
30. Have the records from the vessel Traffic Service Program from Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, which has closed circuit television systems and twelve radar systems, been subpoenaed? If so, what has been learned from these records, and are they being passed on to the 9/11 Independent Commission?
1. Was NORAD aware of the four hijacked planes veering off course even before being reported by the FAA? If not, please explain why NORAD, which monitors 7000 flights a day, was unable to track the four aberrant flights.
2. At precisely what time was NORAD notified of each plane being hijacked? What was their response?
3. Who determined from which bases the F-16s should be scrambled? Why were fighter jets scrambled from such distant bases such as Langley Base in Va. instead of Andrews Air Force Base, a mere 10 miles from the Pentagon? Who were the pilots of these F-16s?
4. Why weren’t the jets able to intercept the hijacked planes if they were airborne within eight minutes of notification? What was their airspeed?
5. It is reported that there were two F-15s off the coast of Long Island while Flights 11 and 175 were in the air. If there were indeed fighters off Long Island, why weren’t they diverted to investigate Flights 11 and 175? Were any other military planes flying routine missions on the morning of September 11th which could have responded?
6. Why did NORAD wait until after the second plane hit the WTC to try and prevent possible further attacks? Why weren’t the fighter jets that tailed flights 11 and 175 as they crashed into New York’s WTC, immediately rerouted to intercept flights 77 or 93, before they crashed into the Pentagon and Pennsylvania?
7. Why wasn’t the Pentagon defended?
8. Were surveillance satellites orbiting North American airspace on 9/11?
- What exactly does the satellite imaging reveal?
- What companies own these satellites?
- Where are the records and logs for these orbits?
9. Why were these four planes able to evade all radar? Even when the transponders are disconnected, a plane is still able to be located by its “skin” on radar screens.
10. In June 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld modified NMCC response procedure in the event of a hijacking. Could this procedural change have slowed NORAD’s response time?
11. Who was directing the defense of our country that morning?
12. What defensive actions were ordered to protect our nation during the crisis?
13. In the Newhouse News Service Article titled “Amid Crisis Simulation We Were Suddenly, No Kidding, Under Attack,” Master Sgt. Maureen Dooley says that Boston Center was following a blip thought to be flight 11 and she “grasped for a way to get the plane’s tail number”- as she was talking to the F-16 pilots. If, as NORAD claims, the fighters were not near NY when flight 11 hit the towers, how could they have possibly been in a position to get the flight’s tail number?
14. It was reported that at 9:03 the second plane crash brought a brief pause (in OPS room) and then a renewal, they looked to Robert Marr for a game plan. He said “get to the phones, call every National Guard unit in the land – Prepare to put jets in the air – the nation is under attack”. How many planes are at the ready including the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF), the National Guard, the Air Force, the Coast Guard etc. – (NORAD’s are not the only bases that have planes at the ready). How many bases were contacted? Were planes put up?
15. Exactly how many bases had planes that were combat ready, which were not under the direction of NORAD? For example: Syracuse, N.Y., Hartford, Conn., McGuire Air Force base, Atlantic City. Those bases had websites that “boasted” – prior to 9/11 that they were on high readiness status.
16. With regard to the Coast Guard – How many of their helicopters were available? Why were they not called and/or put up in the sky?
17. At what point in time did Deskins contact Major Don Arias in Florida (we know from news articles that it was prior to the second plane hitting WTC 2). Major Arias called his brother in WTC, Tower 2, and told him that the first plane was a hijacking and that he should, therefore, evacuate. Why weren’t they calling the Port authority to tell them that they should evacuate everyone from the building? Also, how is it that if NORAD knew that flight 11 was a hijacking, that anyone can say they thought the first plane crash, was an accident?
18. Amalgam Virgo One, the NORAD exercise that took place June 2001, has a picture of Bin Laden on the cover. It talks about perceived threats that face this nation. It does not then make sense that NORAD continued operating under a “cold war scenario”. In fact, in NewsHerald.com 6/01, Major Arias says, “The cold war is over.” Gen Larry Arnold says we have to be proactive or we are going to get hurt. Whose job is it to change NORAD’s mission? Have they been held accountable for not changing the mission considering the cold war had been over and many threats by rogue nations had been made on our country?
Secure Military Bases
1. Were any secure military bases involved in “exercises” on the morning of 9/11? If so, were and/or could any of your pilots have been diverted to intercept the hijacked planes?
2. Given the events unfolding in NY, DC, and PA, did any of your bases or pilots inquire about flying to intercept the hijacked planes or give military cover to any of the cities involved?
3. If so, were any of these bases or individuals told to stand down?
- Pensacola Naval Station, Pensacola, FL
- Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX
- Air War College, Montgomery, AL
- Maxwell Air Force Base, International Officers School, Montgomery, AL [re: Mohammed Atta]
- The Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA [re: Saeed Alghamdi]
- Brooks Air Force Base, TX, Brooks Medical School, [re: Abdulaziz Alomari]
United States Strategic Command
“The United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is located at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “USSTRATCOM is the command and control center for U.S. strategic forces and controls military space operations, computer network operations, information operations, strategic warning and intelligence assessments as well as global strategic planning. The command is responsible for both early warning of and defense against missile attack and long-range conventional attacks…” http://www.stratcom.af.mil [excerpt from website]
On September 11th:
1. Was USSTRATCOM notified of any of the four hijackings? If so, by whom and at what time?
2. Did USSTRATCOM, at any time, track the four hijacked planes?
3. Does USSTRATCOM have a response protocol for attacks initiated within the continental United States? If so, was this protocol followed?<
4. Did USSTRATCOM have any communication with NORAD prior to, or during, the terrorist attacks?
5. Prior to, or on September 11th, was anyone at USSTRATCOM advised, formally or informally, of the possibility of a terrorist attack within the United States?
The Family Steering Committee sent the following letter in response to an article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph (UK)
June 28, 2004
Regarding “Families of 9/11 are ‘the rock stars of grief’ says sister of Pentagon pilot.” [June 27, 2004]:
The headline featuring Ms. Burlingame’s comment that members of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission (FSC) are “Rock stars of grief” sets a disrespectful tone for the article by implying that our members have exploited the death of our loved ones for fame and the limelight. This is untrue and it denigrates the important goals of our group.
Ms. Burlingame’s allegation that the FSC has been advised by Move-on.org or any other organization is patently false. Your reporter, Mr. Julian Coman, should have asked Ms. Burlingame for proof of her charges. Had he done so, he would have discovered that there is no proof because it never happened.
No one tells us what to say or gives us talking points. Both individually and collectively, the twelve of us are quite capable of thinking for ourselves, and have been doing so since we first began the push for an independent investigation in the fall of 2001. Our statements and goals have been consistent from the first and can be found on our website at http://www.911independentcommission.org. Our main goals were to obtain legislation creating an independent Commission to investigate 9/11 (a goal achieved), to understand why our nation was so vulnerable, and to do whatever we could to help prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack. The 9/11 Commission’s investigation and recommendations, once implemented, constitute the vehicle for achieving the last two goals.
The FSC will respond to the information in the Commission’s report when it comes out next month. It is expected that there will be references to both former President Clinton and President Bush in the Commission’s report. Information about the actions of either President are legitimate topics for discussion. To suggest that the FSC is using the 9/11 Commission or its report to bash President Bush is yet another defamation.
Although we regularly submit questions to the bipartisan Commission or discuss issues related to the investigation with them, we have no control over their actions or conclusions. Further, the FSC has often been critical of the Commission and made numerous recommendations which were mostly ignored. This can be easily confirmed by comparing the FSC statements to the Commission’s subsequent actions.
Our questions, statements, and concerns about the 9/11 Commission’s decisions and progress are a collaborative effort, but we do not sit around the kitchen table with a bottle of wine to discuss them. To imply that we do is extremely offensive. The written work which we produce involves numerous group e-mails and conference calls. We live in central and coastal New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. The interviews given by our members reflect the thinking which produced our written work. It is appalling that such an insidiously malicious portrayal of our group has been foisted on the public via this article.
It is also not true that we scorn those who tried so hard to help on the morning of September 11th. We do not fault the air traffic controllers on duty that morning. They performed remarkably well under adverse conditions. Our issue is with the fact that no one from the top advised or alerted those on the front line of defense to the possibility of a terrorist attack involving hijacking. In preliminary findings at least, that seems to have been characteristic of most government agencies investigated.
When we say that many fire fighters died because they did not hear the call to evacuate due to faulty radios, it does not imply that fire fighters weren’t heroes. Had the radios been working properly, many precious lives would have been saved. Surely no one would expect a fire fighter or other rescuer, uniformed or civilian, to stay in the burning building when conditions become lethally dangerous. Nothing can detract from the heroism of so many that day. We will always honor and remember the sacrifice of those who died trying to help and the valor of those who survived. Did your reporter actually read our remarks, or did he just accept as truth the perversely inaccurate version that was presented?
In one area, we agree with Ms. Burlingame. The FSC wants to see the terrorists defeated. But it is extremely naïve to focus on that alone to ensure our security. Islamic extremism which produced the terrorists is not going to disappear in the near future. It is likely that despite the War on Terror, the terrorists will try again. If we are to prevent another catastrophic attack, America cannot ignore the multiple failures within our national security system which facilitated the surprise attack.
Our military cannot correct the failures or close the security loopholes here in America. Those are internal problems. Americans must ask tough questions of our government officials about our domestic security prior to and on September 11th. And our government must fully cooperate with the investigation. The answers are critical to an analysis of transmittal problems in the intelligence stream which inhibited the flow of information from the top down and as well as within and between agencies. Such analysis is required if America is to devise an enhanced security network and strategy. Asking questions and demanding complete answers is not equivalent to beating up on each other as was implied, nor is it politically motivated. It is a quest for truth— unbiased, unvarnished truth that has a direct bearing on the security and well-being of every American.
Unlike politicians and their minions, the Family Steering Committee has no need to cast aspersions on those who have a differing viewpoint. Such character assassination will not accomplish our goals, further our cause or promote respectful discussion. Other than attempting to discredit the FSC, what motivation could there be for the false accusations and insinuations about us?
Printing false statements, slurs and innuendo about the Family Steering Committee without investigating our goals or verifying the facts has unjustly maligned the integrity of each individual member of the FSC. Even if a correction or retraction is printed, some of your readers will not see it and much damage will have been done to our reputation by such an irresponsible article.
The Family Steering Committee
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission Statement Regarding the Final Report
July 20, 2004
Since December of 2002, and the passage of Public Law 107-306, the Family Steering Committee has scrupulously followed the course of the 9/11 Commission. In fact, from the Commission’s very inception, the FSC sought to maintain a close working relationship with the Commission by providing it with our documented research, along with the questions it generated, and by communicating our concerns about the progress of the investigation.
While we believe that our concerns were acknowledged, we had also hoped that more of our questions and those of the American public would be fully addressed during the public hearings, or at the very least, discussed in the prepared staff statements. Yet today, many of our collective questions remain unanswered. (NOTE: Our questions are posted at www.911independentcommission.org.)
These questions must be comprehensively addressed and clearly answered by the Commission in the final report so that everyone is able to understand and assess our nation’s past and current security policies, protocols and procedures. Our objective has always been to better protect and defend our nation from the ongoing threat of terrorism.
Although we have made some progress since September 11th, preliminary 9/11 Commission reports and witness testimony illustrate that we remain vulnerable and at great risk of a future attack. Many of the deadly mistakes and failures that contributed to the terrorists’ success on 9/11 have yet to be corrected. The “vital dialogue and debate” that our elected leaders espoused has been cast aside because of election year politics. The vulnerabilities in our security network cannot be rectified until they have been identified through a process in which issues are thoroughly examined, witnesses are fully questioned, accountability is wholly assigned and sound conclusions are ultimately drawn. It is only after this vetting process that we – the American people – can be confident that critically important changes and reforms will be expeditiously implemented.
While there were great acts of heroism performed by many people on 9/11, there were also colossal systemic failures that occurred. Many of these failures can be attributed to government agencies and institutions whose very responsibility it was to keep New York City, Washington, D.C., airline passengers and the rest of America safe. And, while a thorough examination of these types of failures might prove politically uncomfortable for some, the nation must have the courage to withstand constructive criticism so that we can fix these problems, as they continue to plague our national security apparatus to this very day.
There is much work that remains to be done. And it is our hope that the Commission’s final report will serve as a guide for our elected leaders to the areas and issues that must be addressed, assessed and reformed. We do not want the recommendations and findings of this report to sit idly on a shelf until after the next attack – to do so would be to dishonor and defile the memories of our loved ones. We look forward to working cooperatively with the Commission and government officials towards this end.
Finally, because of the political environment in which this report will be issued, we respectfully request that discussion of its findings and recommendations transcend partisan, election-year politics. We call upon President Bush and Congress to expedite implementation of the needed reforms in order to ensure the security of our great nation. Time is of the essence.
Statement of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission
July 26, 2004
The Family Steering Committee extends its heartfelt gratitude to the 9/11 Commissioners and staff for their tireless work in producing the Final Report.
We also offer our sincere thanks to the Commissioners for reuniting and refocusing the American public towards one common goal – making this nation less vulnerable to terrorists. They have rekindled the spirit of common purpose that characterized this nation in the days following September 11th. The Commission has brought us together again – truly committed in a determined mission to make our homeland safer.
Although we have not yet completed our review and analysis of the report and its footnotes, we nevertheless feel compelled to comment on the enormous impact this report has already made. For the first time in our history, ordinary citizens have been invited into the debate surrounding the structure of our national security apparatus. This invitation is long overdue. It is an example of democracy – alive, and at work.
The American people are demanding action in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. They will not accept the fate of past Commissions, whose reforms were never implemented. Moreover, the 9/11 Commission’s message – that national security issues are too important to be derailed by politics – is reverberating across the country.
In chilling similarity to the heightened threat period we encountered during the summer of 2001, recent intelligence reports are suggesting another imminent, spectacular terrorist attack. And just as in the summer of 2001, we find our Congress in recess and our President on vacation. This is simply unconscionable. We respectfully request that our lawmakers postpone their vacations in order to pass the potentially life-saving legislation recommended by the Commission. Nearly three years have passed since our nation’s homeland security was cataclysmically breached. Far too little has been done to better secure our homeland. We therefore request that Congress and our President act with the greatest urgency.
The anniversary of September 11, 2001– a day that changed our world – approaches. As such, we believe that the most fitting way to honor the memory of our loved ones who perished on 9/11 is to implement the Commission’s recommendations whether by Executive Order or legislative enactment.
We are committed to working with the Commissioners, Congress, the White House and the American public to ensure that these recommendations are acted upon expeditiously. These recommendations are truly a matter of life and death and we will not rest until reforms are adopted. They have had three years to carry out thoughtful study and analysis of the same problems addressed by the Commission. To paraphrase Commissioner Jim Thompson, if these reforms are not the best that can be done for the American people, then the Congress and the president should propose their alternate solutions now.
The tone of bipartisan cooperation set by this Commission is a model that we would like to see adopted by all of our government representatives. We also encourage every American to read the final report and to have their voices heard by writing, calling, and/or visiting with their elected officials to demand the enactment of necessary reforms.
We intend to hold any elected official publicly accountable for any obstruction or opposition to the implementation of these recommendations. We will maintain a log on our website that will track the course of this legislation. We will in effect conduct our own oversight – “the people’s oversight”. And we will actively lobby Congress and the White House until these important recommendations are in place.
To follow the progress of these enactments we encourage everyone to visit our website www.911independentcommission.org. We will provide updates on the progress of pending Congressional legislation.
Lastly, the Commissioners have concluded that September 11, 2001 resulted from a “failure of imagination”. Although accountability was not assigned to specific individuals, it is clear that one solution is to hire new people with better imaginations.
The time to act is now.
Statement of the Family Steering Committee Regarding the President’s Acceptance of Certain Recommendations
August 3, 2004
Presidential Directives – More Specifics Needed
It is encouraging to hear that President Bush mentioned that he will be issuing Presidential Directives by week’s end. We are anxious to learn the specific nature of these Presidential Directives. We are hopeful that each Presidential Directive will establish strict deadlines for their complete implementation. Furthermore, we are hopeful that President Bush will clearly state where the funding will be found for these initiatives. The Family Steering Committee maintains that such specific guidance given by the President will further enhance the likelihood of these initiatives being expedited.
The National Intelligence Director – More Specifics Needed
We also respectfully request more specific information from the President about his vision regarding the power and position of the National Intelligence Director.
In contrast to the Commission’s recommendations, the White House has indicated that it does not want the National Intelligence Director to be a Cabinet level position, and it has not yet addressed the second qualification – that the National Intelligence Director have budgetary control. It light of these differences, we respectfully request that President Bush clearly define the budgetary authorities and management capabilities of this new position.
- What are the advantages of having the National Intelligence Director position outside the White House?
- What mechanisms, such as budgetary control, will enable this individual to assert and maintain meaningful authority over the 15 intelligence agencies for which he/she is responsible?
- If this new position does not have budgetary control, where will the budgetary control be held?
- Without the authority of the White House, will the National Intelligence Director be able to overcome overbearing bureaucratic static within our national security apparatus?
- If the National Intelligence Director does not have operational control, how will accountability be assigned?
In short, how will this individual not just be another “title” in another “box” shuffled around our national security apparatus?
The concept of a National Intelligence Director is not novel. It has been broached both by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (the Scowcroft Report) and recommended by the Joint Inquiry of Congress’ Final Report.
Because the concept of a National Intelligence Director is not a novel one, we must question why this position has not been created in the past three years. We would hope that any previous opposition from the Pentagon or certain congressional committees would yield to the best interests of national security.
We appreciate ancillary concerns over the shifting of budgetary controls and management power. Nevertheless, three years post 9/11 this nation needs a National Intelligence Director equipped with all authorities as envisioned by the 9/11 Commission. All members of Congress and officials of the Department of Defense must recognize that the time has come to accept the concept of a National Intelligence Director with budgetary authority over all 15 intelligence agencies. We remain hopeful that President Bush will make this clear to both the Pentagon and the various congressional committees. The nation will not tolerate any further delay in the immediate implementation of this vital position because of any real or perceived “turf wars”.
We are also hopeful that President Bush will assuage concerns that the National Intelligence Director might be persuaded by “policy,” by vetting potential appointees to Congress and the American people immediately. Certainly, the integrity and competence of the individual who might fill this post will play a key role in whether the American people can feel confident with regard to the creation of this new position. The American public must trust that any National Intelligence Director will not infringe upon privacy rights, separations of powers principles, or abuse his/her power. We firmly believe that the individual must be apolitical, nonpartisan, highly qualified with a keen imagination, and capable of encouraging the sharing of information across intelligence agencies.
August Hearing Schedule–Need for Attendance
We encourage all Americans to read the Commission’s Final Report. We also encourage all Senators and Congressmen to attend the upcoming hearings throughout the month of August. Admittedly, not all elected representatives can directly participate in these hearings. Nevertheless, all elected representatives can learn from these hearings so that they are better prepared to support this legislation once Congress reconvenes in September. Thus, we call upon all members of Congress and all Administration officials to attend the public hearings scheduled for the month of August. Their attendance at these hearings will send a clear message to the American people that our national security is a number one priority.
Legislative Language Put Forth by Congress
All legislative bills encompassing these recommendations must be stand-alone bills. They should not have attachments. Towards that end, the American people will be able to clearly discern who supports these recommendations and who does not. All recommendations must be implemented into law in their purest form as set out by the Commission so as to not lose the integrity of the Commission’s intent.
As always, we look forward to working cooperatively with the President and our Congress so that these vital recommendations can be implemented into sound legislation prior to the next attack.
In conclusion, we look forward to President Bush’s endorsement of the remaining 39 recommendations.
An Open Letter to 9/11 Legislation Conferees
October 18, 2004
The task of reconciling the House and Senate versions of the 9/11 reform legislation is yours. This means you have the opportunity to restore America’s faith in its government by making that government accountable. Enacting the core reforms of the 9/11 Commission in the manner they envisioned is the only conscionable response to the deaths of nearly three thousand people on September 11th.
The result of your work should be to present a bill to both Houses that provides for: • A National Intelligence Director with the necessary authorities to perform the job effectively
- A National Counterterrorism Center
- A Civil Liberties Review Board
- Multiple National Intelligence Centers
- Declassification of the aggregate intelligence budget
This legislative package should also address the numerous other recommendations contained in the 9/11 Commission’s report. However, such legislation should be unencumbered by controversial provisions that violate international law, are unrelated to the war against terrorism or are inconsistent with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission .
Our goal is to have this bill signed into law before Election Day. The President is urging that as well. The 9/11 families, along with millions of Americans, are watching to see what you do. We call upon you to execute your responsibilities with great urgency and with the highest integrity by rising above politics, setting aside turf battles and resisting the comfort of the status quo. That is the best way to honor the memory of those killed on September 11th.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission and Supporters
Statement of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission Regarding the Release of the CIA Inspector General’s Report post- 9/11
October 20, 2004
The Family Steering Committee is deeply disturbed to learn that an investigation of the CIA, conducted at the direction of the Joint House and Senate Congressional Intelligence Committees two years ago, has yet to be released — even though the report is not classified.
This report discusses failures within the CIA and identifies performance deficiencies among high-ranking CIA officials. Congress is currently in the process of legislating reforms within the intelligence community. The findings in this report must be shared with all members of Congress and with the American public to ensure that the problems identified are addressed and corrected.
We call for the immediate release of this report. To shield CIA officials from accountability and to continue to cover-up deficiencies in that agency puts the safety of our nation at risk.
An Open Letter to the President
October 20, 2004
Dear President Bush:
The office of the President of the United States is the most important job in the world. Among its responsibilities, one takes precedence over all others — protecting the American people.
You have made the War on Terror a focal point of your campaign. Waging this war has two important fronts: 1) foreign, by dismantling terrorist organizations via military action, and 2) domestic, by disrupting terrorist plots against private citizens before they unfold. Both require a strong intelligence apparatus, one that is far superior to that which existed on September 11th.
Congress is on the verge of failing to reach consensus on legislation that would correct that deficiency, which the 9/11 Commission made as a cornerstone of their recommendations. You have acknowledged the urgency indirectly, by stating through intermediaries that you want something done “as soon as possible”.
As the leader of our country and the Commander-in-Chief in the War on Terrorism, we call upon you to do more. This nation’s faith in its leaders was shaken to the core on September 11th. Only you can restore it. You have a responsibility to the American people to see that this legislation is passed. If you speak, Congress will listen. If you say you want a bill on your desk before the election, you will have it. And Americans heading to the polls will then be able to judge whether you did everything you could to protect them.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission and Supporters
FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE QUESTIONS PARTISAN STALEMATE IN 9/11 COMMISSION BILL CONFERENCE
October 21, 2004
With only twelve days remaining until the election, we are extremely concerned about the slow pace of action, the lack of a public process, and the direction this conference is taking. Despite opening statements indicating a willingness to work in bipartisan, bicameral fashion, the conference ended with a unilateral proposal from House Republicans.
Although 75% of the conferees, representing the Senate majority and minority and the House minority, are focused on the core recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, a minority faction comprised of House Republicans is thwarting the process. This is occurring despite Speaker Hastert’s promise to us that the House would not derail final consensus.
We saw this same pattern when there was resistance to the creation of the 9/11 Commission, to funding for the Commission, and to the Commission’s extension. Yet with the help of public awareness, those roadblocks were overcome.
We are therefore calling for public meetings so that Americans can see who is holding up action on this critically important legislation. This conference must be conducted in a collaborative public and bipartisan manner rather than behind closed doors.
Yesterday, the first meeting day, was yet another day wasted. No subsequent meetings are scheduled. The conferees should not leave Washington until their job is done.
We need a final product now to restore faith that our government is doing everything in its power to keep us safe. If the legislation doesn’t have full support from the White House and the conference doesn’t work in a bipartisan manner, the chance of enacting meaningful reform will evaporate.
We support the 9/11 Commission recommendations as embodied in the Senate legislation. We call on the President and House leadership to urge a public, nonpartisan process that everyone can support and that puts a bill on his desk before election day.
9/11 Family Steering Committee Asks, “Where is the President? The Country Needs a 9/11 Bill!”
October 22, 2004
Family members of 9/11 victims demand that the President immediately take time from his campaign to ensure that legislation critical to this nation’s safety is enacted.
The 9/11 reform bill – specifically, the Senate version, which has been endorsed by the 9/11 Commission – will never become law unless the President acts. The momentum for reform has been stopped in its tracks by a minority faction of Republican House members who oppose this bill. These obstructionists have engaged in back-room manuevering and have refused to schedule public hearings, in fear of having the American people witness their strong arm tactics. To add to our overall disillusionment, it appears that Speaker Hastert has no intention of keeping his promise to us that the House would not impede getting a bill to the President before Election Day.
So it is now up to President Bush. He must demonstrate that he deserves to be re-elected. We call upon him to get his House in order, and intercede with this maverick contingent of members of his own party who are impeding the process of making America safer. The American people entrusted the President with the responsibility to protect us and NOW is the time for him to show that he has earned that trust.
Sounding an Alarm
October 25, 2004
We are sounding an alarm. The opportunity to strengthen our intelligence system is vanishing. After three years of effort, we are on the brink of failure. Despite nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate and nearly half the House of Representatives, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission will not become law before the election. And to our peril, they may never become law.
A strong National Intelligence Director with all necessary authorities is critical to reform. The House bill is deficient because that key element and others are missing.
No progress is reported in Conference negotiations. The President is making calls to Leadership asking for a bill, but to no avail. He needs to do more. The same administration that failed to protect us on 9/11 is failing us again.
The President stated, “that he would have moved heaven and earth to save the country.” Yet, despite the persistent threat of another attack, the President is limiting himself to phone calls and is not in Washington. Intransigent members of his own party are blocking passage of critical reform legislation. This opposition is contrary to the expectations of all Americans.
“What possible reason could there be for this failure to act? Three thousand people were killed right here in America on this administration’s watch. Our dysfunctional government agencies failed to protect us. No one was in charge. Little has changed. Who is in charge today of fighting the war on terrorism within our own borders? Who is accountable for protecting the 294 million Americans here at home?
“If more Americans are killed in a terrorist attack, what excuse will the President and Congress give for their failure to implement these critical reforms? There is no acceptable excuse. America will hold them accountable.”
Statement of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission on the Failure to Pass 9/11 Intelligence Reform Legislation
October 27, 2004
We are angry and saddened that the opportunity for significant reform of our country’s intelligence structure has been squandered. We hold the following elected officials responsible for this failure: House Republican conferees Hoekstra, Hunter, Hyde, Sensenbrenner and Dreier; Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert; and the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
On September 11th, this administration and Congress failed to protect us. The 9/11 Commissioners concluded a critical factor in that failure was that no one was in charge of the intelligence community. And today, little has changed.
We began our quest for accountability and reform over 3 years ago, beginning with our demand for an independent commission. Once the Commission completed its work, we believed its recommendations would be swiftly implemented.. But as roadblocks emerged, the President never took time from his campaign to come to Washington himself to see this through. He has allowed members of his own party to derail the legislative process. America deserves better from its leaders.
Election Day is imminent. Now it’s our turn. We will hold them accountable.
An Open Letter to the President and Conferees
November 8, 2004
Dear Mr. President and Conferees:
The election is over and politics are finally behind us. However, this Congress and this Administration still have significant unfinished business. Specifically, the bill implementing the 9/11 Commission’s reforms must be passed before the end of the year, and we —the 9/11 families— are not going away until the job is done.
Mr. President, in your acceptance speech, you spoke of unity. What better way to bring this nation and this Congress together, than by working in bipartisan fashion to successfully implement the intelligence reforms? Conferees, you must join the President in that bipartisan effort. Only then can Americans be assured that our government is doing everything in its power to keep us safe.
The 15 agencies comprising the intelligence community remain collectively dysfunctional. Progress on the 9/11 reform bill which addresses those problems is in danger of reaching an impasse. Yet, as Commission Chairman Tom Kean has repeatedly stated, it is better to have no bill at all than to have a weak bill that will give the country a false sense of security. We, the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission, therefore continue to oppose any bill that merely gives the appearance of having corrected those problems.
Mr. President, your reelection provides you with the opportunity to turn your full attention to this important legislation. The 9/11 reform bill will not become law unless you step in. You, as President, must take charge and use the capital you now have from the voters to make this bill happen. Its passage will ensure your legacy as a president determined to protect this country from terrorism.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission Statement on Congressional Responsibility
November 18, 2004
The 108th Congress is poised to adjourn, leaving unfinished business. The intelligence reform bill is the most important legislation of this session. Recent news stories confirm that the intelligence community is in frightening disarray and yet members of Congress may head home without completing an intelligence reform bill based on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. If that happens, it means members of Congress have shamefully abdicated their responsibility to the citizens who elected them.
We therefore call upon the following leaders of the House and Senate to extend this lame duck session until this critical intelligence reform legislation has been enacted: Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
The eleventh hour is at hand and so we also call upon President Bush to intervene to break the deadlock in these contentious negotiations. His leadership is URGENTLY needed.
Statement on the Need for Consensus
November 19, 2004
There is an urgent need to reach consensus on the 9/11 bill before the 108th Congress adjourns. It’s now a matter of hours, not days. Progress continues even because conferees have been willing to modify their positions. Nevertheless, the negotiators must preserve those provisions which grant the NID the necessary authorities that will allow for the collection and analysis of accurate and timely intelligence. Only then will our nation be able to effectively combat those who threaten our safety.
We encourage the Senate conferees to remain firm on the core recommendations of the 9/11 commission which include:
1. a strong National Intelligence Director with budgetary authority
2. a strong, independent civil liberties board
3. a National Counter-Terrorism Center
4. a clearly articulated information sharing plan
Reps. Duncan Hunter and Jim Sensenbrenner must join the good-faith effort to reach agreement on this bill before it’s too late. The safety and security of our nation rests in their hands, and in the hands of the President. We who lost loved ones on September 11th know all too well the consequences of failing to understand who the enemy is and where they will strike next. This bill needs to be enacted now. We ask the President and the Conferees to join together to make that happen.
An Open Letter to Members of the 108th Congress
November 20, 2004
Dear Members of Congress:
The conferees have at last reached consensus on a bill that will implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. The agreement has been endorsed by the Commission and we strongly concur. We believe this legislation will make our country safer by improving communication, collaboration, and sharing of critical information within our intelligence community.
There are many individuals who deserve thanks for moving the process forward. In particular, we want to acknowledge the efforts of Conference Chairman, Pete Hoekstra, as well as the other principal conferees, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Congresswoman Jane Harman. In addition, we want to recognize the tireless efforts of Congressional staff members who participated in the process.
We also extend our thanks to President Bush for his intervention and to Congressional leaders Hastert and Frist for extending this session of Congress to allow a vote on this important legislation.
We now call upon all the members of Congress to vote in favor of this long-overdue, critical legislation so that on Thanksgiving Day, all Americans can give thanks that our government, at long last, has taken a crucial step toward making our country safer from terrorism.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission
Statement on the Failure to Bring 9/11 Legislation to a Vote
November 20, 2004
It is unconscionable that the compromise 9/11 Intelligence reform bill, negotiated with the help of Speaker Hastert’s own staff, and quickly approved by Senate conferees, will not go to the House floor for a vote as anticipated. The legislation has been obstructed by the intransigence of two conferees: Representatives Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner. They remain unapologetic as they pursue an agenda that is contrary to the express wishes of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, both of whom have called them to convey support for the agreed on bill.
We continue to be disappointed in Speaker Hastert’s failure to deliver on his long-overdue personal promise to us that the Intel Reform bill would be completed by early November.
The failure to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote is particularly troubling because we believe the bill would have passed by a wide majority in the House. There are many House members of good conscience who know that the country needs these reforms and that these constant delays mean Americans continue to be exposed to greater risk of another attack.
The 9/11 Commission, the Senate, the House Democrats and the 9/11 Family Steering Committee have endorsed this proposed legislation. It is inconceivable to us that two House members can hold this bill hostage and keep America in peril.
Because of our personal loss on September 11th we recognize firsthand what terrorism can do here in America. The most important legislation of the 108th Congress remains unfinished –the 9/11 Intelligence Reform bill. Once again we call upon the President and Speaker Hastert to show the political courage required and override an obstructionist minority in the interest of making our nation safer.
An Open Letter to Members of the 108th Congress on the 9/11 Bill Conference Report
December 9, 2004
Dear Members of Congress:
You have at last reached consensus on a bill that will implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. We believe this conference report accomplishes our main goal, which was to fix our nation’s broken intelligence system.
The passage of these reforms marks a critical point in a long, three-year journey. We started as a diverse group of 12 individuals representing a number of 9/11 family groups who shared a common loss. Our goal was to make our country safer. Although at times our resolve was sorely tested, the 12 of us have remained steadfast refusing to ever give up.
Having reached this critical junction, we want to acknowledge the many individuals who have helped us. We thank all of the Members of Congress who voted for the establishment of an independent 9/11 Commission. We thank the ten 9/11 Commissioners who acted in a truly bipartisan manner and produced a report whose 41 recommendations became a roadmap for today’s Conference Report.
We would also like to thank the individuals who have made this week’s vote possible. In particular, we want to acknowledge the leadership of President Bush, Speaker Hastert, Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Frist and Minority Leader Daschle. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the Conference Chairman, Pete Hoekstra as well as the other principal conferees Susan Collins, Jane Harman and Joseph Lieberman. Finally, we would like acknowledge the hard work of the 9/11 Commission Caucus led by Congressman Christopher Shays and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
While we thank you for your work on this historic legislation, we must keep in mind that more work needs to be done. One critical issue is reorganizing Congress so our intelligence agencies will have the oversight required to ensure it is doing its job. We look forward to working with you in the 109th Congress, to help enact the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report, and to make our country as safe as possible for this generation and generations to come.
Carol Ashley, mother of Janice Ashley, 25
Kristen Breitweiser, wife of Ronald Breitweiser, 39
Patty Casazza, wife of John F. Casazza, 38
Beverly Eckert, wife of Sean Rooney
Mary Fetchet, mother of Bradley James Fetchet, 24
Monica Gabrielle, wife of Richard Gabrielle
Bill Harvey, husband of Sara Manley Harvey, 31
Mindy Kleinberg, wife of Alan Kleinberg, 39
Carie Lemack, daughter of Judy Larocque
Sally Regenhard, mother of Christian Michael Otto Regenhard, 28
Lorie Van Auken, wife of Kenneth Van Auken, 47
Robin Wiener, sister of Jeffrey Wiener, 33
A Thank You
December 9, 2004
Dear 9/11 Family Members, Friends, and Supporters,
Legislation based on the 9/11 Commission recommendations has passed both the House and the Senate.
When the President signs this landmark legislation, it will become law and our country will have taken a major step toward becoming more secure.
To each of you who stood with us and took action —Thank you!
Many of you helped by contacting the White House, other elected officials and newspapers.
Every fax, call, email and letter was important.
Some of you were able to attend the Commission hearings in Washington or New York. And some of you came to the vigils in New York, Boston, Washington, Sherman Oaks or Buffalo. Many of you responded by signing the petition asking for a floor vote on the bill.
Every time you took action, it was noticed.
Your activism helped hammer home the message that America wants the problems that led to 9/11 fixed.
We could not have done it without you! We thank you with all our hearts.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission
Statement on the 9/11 Reform Bill and the Need for Congressional and Public Oversight
December 14, 2004
With the passage of the 9/11 bill, Congress moved to correct some of the problems in our security network identified by the 9/11 Commission. When the provisions of this bill are implemented, there will be a major reorganization of our intelligence community and increased border and port security.
However, the work of Congress is not finished. There are two critical issues regarding Congressional and public oversight which must be addressed.
First, when the 109th Congress convenes, it must confront the issue of centralizing and strengthening Congressional oversight of intelligence and homeland security. The Commission made clear that overhauling Congressional oversight is vital to the success of the improved security capabilities in the 9/11 legislation.
The 9/11 bill created a powerful Director of National Intelligence with sweeping budgetary and personnel authorities. The integrity and autonomy of the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) are crucial to effective implementation of intelligence reform. We call for a respected, non-partisan professional to be appointed to the position of DNI.
With so much power concentrated in one position, Congress must immediately move to streamline its oversight of our intelligence apparatus, thus eliminating the fractured, disorganized hodgepodge of committees which are currently responsible for oversight. Reorganization for the purpose of monitoring and assessing our intelligence network should be a priority in the new Congress. This is no time to be complacent.
Once again we must ask Congress to rise above the powerful urge to protect turf and power, and do what is best for the nation. To verify their commitment to improving oversight, we call upon all Members of Congress to pledge to vote against any Rules package for the 109th Congress that does not include a reorganization of the Committee structure consistent with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Second, it is unsettling that the bill provides for controversial police powers which were not recommended by the 9/11 Commission while at the same time it fails to create the strong Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended by the Commission. Under the expanded surveillance powers and relaxed detention rules in this legislation, there is the potential for abuse and erosion of our civil liberties. This potentially dangerous imbalance must be addressed immediately by the new Congress via amendment to ensure strong, independent, public oversight and accountability. The current provisions in which the Board has no substantial power and is only appointed by the President are unacceptable in that they guarantee neither autonomy, efficacy nor accountability. To ensure independence and effectiveness of public oversight, Congress must mandate that the entire Civil Liberties Board be appointed jointly by the President and Congress with approval by the Senate. In addition, it is imperative that the Board have subpoena and other powers necessary to compel both private and federal entities to comply with its requests. This will help preserve the balance between our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberty and privacy rights, and the need to provide law enforcement with legal authority to effectively combat terrorism.
We look forward to working with the 109th Congress and the 9/11 Commissioners on these issues.
Final Statement of the Family Steering Committee
January 11, 2005
The signing of legislation implementing many of the 9/11 Commission recommendations represents a milestone for The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission (FSC). The passage of this legislation is the culmination of the efforts of the FSC and the other family members who worked with us; the 9/11 Commission; the members of Congress who sponsored the bill; their staffs; the press whose coverage provided a conduit to the American people; and each and every person who wrote, called and faxed our elected officials on these issues.
Our 12 member group officially became The Family Steering Committee in 2002, when the 9/11 Commission was created after our yearlong campaign for its formation. Our ultimate goal was to identify and subsequently correct those circumstances that contributed to the failure of our government to protect us and our loved ones.
The FSC monitored the Commission’s work to the best of our ability, making every effort to ensure that it fulfilled its mandate. At times we found it necessary to demand that they revise their procedures to better achieve an in-depth, substantive, and independent inquiry. We also worked with the Commission to obtain additional funding, access to witnesses and documents, and an extension to enable the Commission to complete its mandate.
When the Commission concluded its investigation, it issued a report containing 41 recommendations for improving our nation’s security. The report did not answer all of our questions, but its in-depth analysis of intelligence, foreign policy, security and other failures and subsequent recommendations for improvement were reforms we could endorse. The FSC then focused our efforts on ensuring that those recommendations would be implemented. Congress responded by holding hearings and drafting legislation. After a rigorous battle, a bill incorporating many of the 9/11 Commission recommendations passed both Houses of Congress and was signed into law on December 17, 2004.
After three years of work toward making America more secure, the FSC is transitioning in order to address issues such as the release of the still embargoed 9/11 CIA and FAA reports; terrorist financing; immigration reform; the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission; and other issues that continue to emerge. Although the FSC as a group will no longer exist, many of us will continue to work individually and through other 9/11 related groups for these causes.
In closing, our heartfelt thanks go out to the countless Americans who supported us and whose words of encouragement and recent expressions of gratitude made our difficult journey worthwhile.