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9-11: The Administration Refused to Give the Commission Access to the Information It Needed to Begin Its Inquiry

The commission basically had one purpose: to collect and filter information from government agencies that had responsibilities related to anti-terrorism, and locate where the process broke down. The administration’s refusal to give the commission access to the information it needs directly undermines that purpose. Much of the initial stonewalling is detailed in the commission’s July interim report. [9-11 Commission Interim Report 7/8/03]

The very foundation of the independent commission was the product of a Joint Congressional Inquiry into September 11th. [Kansas City Star] Tim Roemer, a Democratic commission member and retired Congressman from Indiana, sat on the Joint Inquiry that produced the report. In April 2003 he wanted to review his report to refresh his memory on some of its findings, but was denied access to it by the administration, which wanted "to determine if the president wants to invoke executive privilege to keep the material out of the panel’s hands." [MSNBC 4/30/03] Republican Senator John McCain said that this excessive secrecy "reduces the public’s confidence in government," [Dallas Morning News 5/23/03] and in testimony before the commission, said:

"I was disheartened that members of your commission were until recently denied access to the report of the joint Congressional investigation into the September 11th terrorist attacks. Using the Congressional committee's report as the baseline for your work, as Administration officials proposed and which we agreed to include in the commission's enacting legislation, would theoretically have allowed the commission to hit the ground running. Instead, you've been stuck in the quicksand of negotiating access to a document you should have been entitled to examine on a priority basis at the beginning of your tenure.
I find it particularly troubling that Commission member and former Congressman Tim Roemer, who helped write the Congressional report as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was until this month denied access to his committee's own product. While I don't want to believe such a basic lack of cooperation was intentional, it nonetheless creates the appearance of bureaucratic stonewalling."
[9-11 Commission Hearing]
Republican Senator Richard Shelby said that the report should be "declassified except for portions that might compromise an ongoing investigation. [Miami Herald 5/5/03]


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