SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD
A new book by a New York Times reporter shines a light on the disturbing behind-the-scenes workings of the 9/11 Commission’s report. If bulletproof, the book prompts us to add one more thing to our to-do list for the next administration: Pressure it to charge a panel of independent experts to write a real, nonpartisan report on the attacks.
Philip Shenon’s “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission” focuses on the relationship between the commission’s executive director, Philip Zelikow, and the White House. To start with, Shenon writes that Zelikow sought to limit the Bush administration’s responsibility in failing to assess threats leading up to the attacks. In 2003, with George W. Bush seeking re-election, a commission investigator found materials confirming that the White House (specifically, Condoleezza Rice, with whom Zelikow had written a book) had ignored warnings of an impending al-Qaida strike. Belittling the investigator, Zelikow dismissed the evidence.
Zelikow had written a 2002 report for the administration, which seemed to provide justification for a pre-emptive war, and tried in 2004 to create a connection between Osama bin Laden and Iraq in the 9/11 Commission report. Despite saying he wouldn’t do so, he also had several conversations with Rice and Karl Rove, which explains why he’d asked his assistant to stop keeping track of his calls to and from the White House.
Someone with an apparent deference for the White House should not have been trusted with such a valued task.