by Nicholas Levis
Tuesday, Feb 17, 2004
Relatives challenge White House to provide answers to 23 questions
9/11 Family Steering Committee demands Bush testify under oath
New York City.
“Mr. Bush, who approved the flight of the bin Laden family out of the United States, when all commercial flights were grounded?”
That is one of 23 explosive questions that George W. Bush and his subordinates will have to face in public testimony, under oath and pain of perjury – that is, if the relatives of people killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 get their way.
“Why has no one in any level of our government been held accountable for the countless failures leading up to and on 9/11?”
For more than a year, the Family Steering Commitee – a group of thirteen “9/11 relatives” representing several other 9/11 family groups – has monitored the government’s commission on Sept. 11, which is headed by former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean. FSC member Mindy Kleinberg was among the first to testify when the Kean Commission held its first proceedings. She alerted the panel to a number of disturbing and unanswered questions and contradictions in the government’s explanation of what happened on Sept. 11.
(For a transcript of Kleinberg’s comments, see http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/hearing1/witness_kleinberg.htm)
Almost none of the issues raised by Kleinberg were ever again brought up in the Kean Commision’s public hearings.
The Family Steering Committee issued their challenge to Bush on Monday, following reports last week that the Kean Commission had asked George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to testify. The White House says Bush is considering an appearance before the Kean Commission, but only in secret session. And if he does appear, it is unlikely Bush will face questions like those on the Family Steering Committee’s list: “Please explain why you remained at the Sarasota, Florida, Elementary School for a press conference after you had finished listening to the children read, when as a terrorist target, your presence potentially jeopardized the lives of the children?”
(Mr. Bush, his staff and his Secret Service entourage were indeed in that school, as carried on live television, until 9:32 a.m. on Sept. 11, 45 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, and 27 minutes after the moment when Bush was informed of the second plane crash and told “America is under attack,” at 9:05 a.m., an anomaly that the White House has never explained.)
In recent weeks, the family members have released a series of harshly-worded statements, blasting the Bush administration for stonewalling the investigation – and also condemning the Kean Commission for refusing to examine key evidence. These statements have been published at the FSC’s website at www.911independentcommission.org.
In its public hearings the Kean Commission has indeed displayed reluctance to pursue controversial lines of inquiry. It is hard to imagine its members would ever ask if the U.S. government tried to cut a deal with Osama Bin Laden in advance of the attacks, as reported in the European press already in 2001. But the families want the answer: “Did you or any agent of the United States government carry out any negotiations or talks with UBL, an agent of UBL, or al-Qaeda?” (“UBL” is government speak for Osama Bin Laden.)
Nor has the Kean Commission shown any inclination to follow the trail of the Cheney “energy policy meetings” in early 2001 and the Bush administration’s oil-pipeline negotiations with the Taliban up to July 2001 – a touchy subject that might come up if the government ever had to answer this question: “During that same period, did you or any agent of the United States government carry out any negotiations or talks with any foreign government, its agents, or officials regarding UBL?”
And it is simply inconceivable that the Kean Commission would ever wonder out loud if anyone other than Al-Qaeda benefitted from the attacks. But the families are not afraid of the obvious: “Which individuals, governments, agencies, institutions, or groups may have benefited from the attacks of 9/11?”
Although the Kean Commission accepted a deal strictly limiting its access to the White House documents detailing advance warnings of a possible terror attack, Governor Kean last week felt confident enough to claim there was “no smoking gun” to indicate Bush had specific advance knowledge of the attacks – at least not in the “parts of the documents” Kean had been allowed to see.
The families don’t buy that on faith or partial evidence. They want to know the real answer: “As Commander-in-Chief, from May 1, 2001 until September 11, 2001, did you receive any information from any intelligence agency official or agent that UBL was planning to attack this nation on its own soil using airplanes as weapons, targeting New York City landmarks during the week of September 11, 2001 or on the actual day of September 11, 2001?”
Meticulously researched, the FSC’s questions to Bush reflect many of the same concerns that have caused millions of people worldwide to doubt everything about the official story of Sept. 11, 2001, and to call for a truly independent investigation with subpeona power, testimony under oath, and no self-imposed restrictions as to “allowable” lines of inquiry.
It is hard to dismiss these concerns as “conspiracy theory” when the U.S. government itself used the most outrageous conspiracy theory of all – the lie that Saddam backed the attacks – as one of its pretexts to invade Iraq. In that matter as well, the families want to see the government held accountable: “Do you continue to maintain that Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda?” they ask. “What proof do you have of any connection between al-Qaeda and the Hussein regime?”
These questions indicate that the families have come to understand that, as great as their grief and tragedy was, the stakes in the 9/11 disclosure issue are far greater, and involve more than justice for the victims and well-deserved closure for the families. 9/11 was used as a lever to shift the world. All Americans – and, given the global impact, the people of the whole
world – need to learn the answers that the families now demand.
FSC RELEASE FOLLOWS
The Family Steering Committee Statement and Questions Regarding the 9/11 Commission Interview with President Bush
February 16, 2004
The Family Steering Committee believes that President Bush should provide sworn public testimony to the full ten-member panel of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
Collectively, the Commissioners are responsible for fulfilling the Congressional mandate. Therefore, each Commissioner must have full access to the testimony of all individuals and the critical information that will enable informed decisions and recommendations. Before an audience of the American people, the Commission must ask President Bush in sworn testimony, the following questions:
1. As Commander-in-Chief on the morning of 9/11, why didn’t you return immediately to Washington, D.C. or the National Military Command Center once you became aware that America was under attack? At specifically what time did you become aware that America was under attack? Who informed you of this fact?
2. On the morning of 9/11, who was in charge of our country while you were away from the National Military Command Center? Were you informed or consulted about all decisions made in your absence?
3. What defensive action did you personally order to protect our nation during the crisis on September 11th? What time were these orders given, and to whom? What orders were carried out? What was the result of such orders? Were any such orders not carried out?
4. In your opinion, why was our nation so utterly unprepared for an attack on our own soil?
5. U.S. Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the Director of the White House Situation Room, informed you of the first airliner hitting Tower One of the World Trade Center before you entered the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. Please explain the reason why you decided to continue with the scheduled classroom visit, fifteen minutes after learning the first hijacked airliner had hit the World Trade Center.
6. Is it normal procedure for the Director of the White House Situation Room to travel with you? If so, please cite any prior examples of when this occurred. If not normal procedure, please explain the circumstances that led to the Director of the White House Situation Room being asked to accompany you to Florida during the week of September 11th.
7. What plan of action caused you to remain seated after Andrew Card informed you that a second airliner had hit the second tower of the World Trade Center and America was clearly under attack? Approximately how long did you remain in the classroom after Card’s message?
8. At what time were you made aware that other planes were hijacked in addition to Flight 11 and Flight 175? Who notified you? What was your course of action as Commander-in-Chief of the United States?
9. Beginning with the transition period between the Clinton administration and your own, and ending on 9/11/01, specifically what information (either verbal or written) about terrorists, possible attacks and targets, did you receive from any source?
This would include briefings or communications from:
* Out-going Clinton officials
* CIA, FBI, NSA, DoD and other intelligence agencies
* Foreign intelligence, governments, dignitaries or envoys
* National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
* Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar
10. Specifically, what did you learn from the August 6, 2001, PDB about the terrorist threat that was facing our nation? Did you request any follow-up action to take place? Did you request any further report be developed and/or prepared?
11. As Commander-in-Chief, from May 1, 2001 until September 11, 2001, did you receive any information from any intelligence agency official or agent that UBL was planning to attack this nation on its own soil using airplanes as weapons, targeting New York City landmarks during the week of September 11, 2001 or on the actual day of September 11, 2001?
12. What defensive measures did you take in response to pre-9/11 warnings from eleven nations about a terrorist attack, many of which cited an attack in the continental United States? Did you prepare any directives in response to these actions? If so, with what results?
13. As Commander-in-Chief from May 1, 2001 until September 11, 2001, did you or any agent of the United States government carry out any negotiations or talks with UBL, an agent of UBL, or al-Qaeda? During that same period, did you or any agent of the United States government carry out any negotiations or talks with any foreign government, its agents, or officials regarding UBL? If so, what resulted?
14. Your schedule for September 11, 2001 was in the public domain since September 7, 2001. The Emma E. Booker School is only five miles from the Bradenton Airport, so you, and therefore the children in the classroom, might have been a target for the terrorists on 9/11. What was the intention of the Secret Service in allowing you to remain in the Emma E. Booker Elementary School, even though they were aware America was under attack?
15. Please explain why you remained at the Sarasota, Florida, Elementary School for a press conference after you had finished listening to the children read, when as a terrorist target, your presence potentially jeopardized the lives of the children?
16. What was the purpose of the several stops of Air Force One on September 11th? Was Air Force One at any time during the day of September 11th a target of the terrorists? Was Air Force One’s code ever breached on September 11th?
17. Was there a reason for Air Force One lifting off without a military escort, even after ample time had elapsed to allow military jets to arrive?
18. What prompted your refusal to release the information regarding foreign sponsorship of the terrorists, as illustrated in the inaccessible 28 redacted pages in the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry Report? What actions have you personally taken since 9/11 to thwart foreign sponsorship of terrorism?
19. Who approved the flight of the bin Laden family out of the United States when all commercial flights were grounded, when there was time for only minimal questioning by the FBI, and especially, when two of those same individuals had links to WAMY, a charity suspected of funding terrorism? Why were bin Laden family members granted that special privilege â¤? a privilege not available to American families whose loved ones were killed on 9/11?
20. Please explain why no one in any level of our government has yet been held accountable for the countless failures leading up to and on 9/11?
21. Please comment on the fact that UBL’s profile on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives poster does not include the 9/11 attacks. To your knowledge, when was the last time any agent of our government had contact with UBL? If prior to 9/11, specifically what was the date of that contact and what was the context of said meeting.
22. Do you continue to maintain that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda? What proof do you have of any connection between al-Qaeda and the Hussein regime?
23. Which individuals, governments, agencies, institutions, or groups may have benefited from the attacks of 9/11? Please state specifically how you think they have benefited.