As someone also motivated by the need for the truth about 9/11, as well as aware of the way conflicts of interest have a way of covering up truth, let me add my thanks to Philip Shenon on the release of his new book. Also let me share this recent comment forwarded to me by Monica Gabrielle of the September 11th Advocates:
Philip Shenon's new book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, serves to justify our suspicions and the concerns of the Family Steering Committee, that we attempted to publicly air during the course of the 9/11 Commission's tenure.
One of the most egregious revelations put forth by Mr. Shenon is the fact that Philip Zelikow was hired as the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, despite his direct ties to the Bush administration. In 2000-2001 he served as a member of Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council (NSC) transition team, where he was allegedly the "architect" of the decision to demote Richard Clarke and his counter terrorism team within the NSC. Furthermore he was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) from 2001-2003, where Zelikow drafted most of the 2002 "National Security Strategy of the United States," creating the pre-emptive Iraq war strategy. These areas were within the scope of the Commission's mandate and as such were of critical importance to determine what, if any, impact they had on the government's ability to prevent the 9/11 attacks.
As the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow was given the responsibility for choosing the entire direction of the Commission's investigation. Essentially, Mr. Zelikow determined who was or was not interviewed as a witness, and which information was or was not looked at. He also influenced which documents would be requested from the various agencies. It seemed to us, that allowing an individual with this much involvement in the Bush administration to run the investigation, might give the appearance of impropriety and could ultimately taint the Commission's findings.
In a statement issued by the Family Steering Committee of March 20, 2004 we wrote:
"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 Administration failed to prioritize the Al Qaeda threat."
In the same statement we also called for:
"Zelikow's immediate resignation; Zelikow's testimony in public and under oath; and the subpoena of Zelikow's notes from the intelligence briefings he attended with Richard Clarke."
Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-Chair Lee Hamilton instead chose to have Mr. Zelikow recuse himself from the areas of the investigation that dealt with the transition period. However, they allowed Mr. Zelikow to be one of only two people (Ms. Gorelick was the other) to review the presidential daily briefings (PDB's), reports that went to the heart of what the White House and its National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, knew prior to 9/11. While investigating the events that led up to the September 11th attacks, Philip Zelikow was called as a witness by the 9/11 Commission though transcripts of his testimony were never made public.
Despite our vehement objections, Mr. Zelikow was allowed to remain in his position as what seemed to be the "gatekeeper" of the 9/11 Commission. Mr. Shenon's book illustrates just how deeply and insidiously the Commission's basic fact-finding work was compromised by Zelikow's conflicts. He recounts that even after his recusal, Mr. Zelikow continued to insert himself into the work of "Team 3," of the Commission. This team was responsible for examining the White House, and therefore, the conduct of Condoleeza Rice and Richard Clarke during the months prior to 9/11.
According to the author, Team 3 staffers would come to believe that Mr. Zelikow prevented them from submitting a report that would have depicted Ms. Rice's performance as "amount[ing] to incompetence, or something not far from it."
Evidence of the possible duplicitous nature of Mr. Zelikow's role on the 9/11 Commission was further exemplified by his numerous conversations with Karl Rove, President Bush's Senior Political Advisor. When questioned about his contact with Rove, Zelikow's response was to tell his secretary to stop logging his calls.
Contrary to former Commissioner John Lehman's recent comment on MSNBC that Zelikow's conversations with Rove are a "red herring", these contacts with Rove should have been a red flag. Negotiating for or procuring of White House documents for the Commission should have been done through the Office of White House Counsel NOT the president's political advisor. Consequently, knowing how this would appear, one must ask why Zelikow was speaking with Rove?
It is abundantly clear that Philip Zelikow should have immediately been replaced when the first rumblings of his impropriety and conflicts of interest surfaced. When all of this information became clear, the Commissioners and the press should have called for Zelikow's resignation. We did. Shamefully, most were silent.
Further evidence of political maneuvering came to light in the story of Commissioner Max Cleland. Cleland was publicly critical of the Commission and the Bush White House. According to Shenon's book, when it became obvious that Max Cleland would continue to be loudly critical, Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-Chair Lee Hamilton sought the help of Senator Tom Daschle to find Cleland a new job. Thus, Max Cleland was quietly removed and silenced with a new job in the Bush administration.
Also revealed in Shenon's book is the fact that the Commission's staff never ventured to the National Security Agency (NSA), the chief collector of intelligence information, in order to review their "voluminous treasure trove of documents." At NSA Headquarters, 27 miles from the Commission's offices, there was a "gold mine" of information detailing terrorist's threats and connections, including those of al Qaeda. General Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA at the time, was eager to cooperate and share what his organization had with the 9/11 Commission, but Executive Director Zelikow was not interested.
A lone staffer, who understood the importance of these archives, had the information moved to a reading room within walking distance of the Commission's offices. Even then, she was the only member of the Commission to take the time to read these documents. By her own admission, this insightful staffer had concerns as to how much she, on her own, would be able to glean from these jargon filled documents. Why didn't Phil Zelikow make reviewing these vital NSA documents a Commission priority? It seems clear that not every fact and lead was followed in this investigation compromising the validity of the Commission's final report and its findings.
Moreover, the "Pre-9/11 story" largely revolved around second- and third-hand knowledge of interrogations of tortured individuals, detainees that were being held in secret locations.
According to many sources at the CIA and deep within the government, confessions extracted from individuals who are tortured are generally deemed useless. A tortured detainee will say anything in order to make the torture stop and therefore, the confession cannot be trusted. One needs to look no further than the Army Field Manual on Interrogation (FM 34-52), which states in Chapter 1:
"Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."
How could the Commission have based their entire pre-9/11 narrative on these unreliable, torture-induced confessions?
We believe that author Phil Shenon has revealed information which only scratches the surface as to what went on behind the scenes of this investigation.
Why, when this Congressionally mandated Commission could have done much to fix the fatal flaws in our in government by conducting a real investigation and making vital recommendations, would they instead allow it to become a sham. This investigation was meant to fix the loopholes that allowed our country to be so vulnerable. Why would they choose instead, to succumb to political machinations? What would we find out if a real investigation into September 11, 2001 were ever done?
The bottom line is that the most deadly attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor remains dangerously unexamined. This can only be remedied with an investigation guided by the facts and conducted outside the reach of those with a vested interest in suppressing the truth.
Lorie Van Auken