Stop Stalling Inquiry into September 11th Attacks

Kansas City Star

Friday, November 14, 2003

Stop stalling inquiry into Sept. 11 attacks
An inexcusable lack of cooperation from the Bush administration continues to hamper the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.

The Defense Department is the latest troublemaker. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States ( recently voted to subpoena Defense Department material. It never should have come to this. The department clearly has not treated its responsibilities to the commission seriously.

The commission says the department assured it that all requested records had been turned over. But the commission discovered that “these assurances were mistaken.” So it has subpoenaed records from the North American Aerospace Defense Command and from several Air Force commands.

The commission has already expressed its frustration over President Bush’s failure to cooperate. Bush at first didn’t want this commission at all. Then he appointed a terrible choice to lead it ? former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a consummate insider who could not have been expected to criticize the government even if it were warranted. Kissinger later withdrew.

Since then the commission has been ably led by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Keane, a Republican. But Keane has become increasingly frustrated with resistance from the White House to his commission’s work.

After the commission complained, it reached an accommodation with the White House that will allow investigators access to examine certain intelligence items contained in the president’s daily briefings. The commission says the agreement will “enable us to get our job done.” That’s encouraging news.

The American people deserve to know as fully as possible what happened on Sept. 11. It’s especially important to know how government intelligence agencies failed in certain areas. Former CIA Director Robert M. Gates, in remarks made in Kansas City, recently said that “the most stunning failure of intelligence since World War II was Sept. 11.” Americans should know why that happened and what is being done to fix it.

Sensitive intelligence material should not be made available to America’s enemies. But there’s no excuse for any part of government failing to cooperate with the 9-11 Commission.