Statement of the Family Steering Committee
Regarding Conflicts of Interest and the 9/11 Commission
April 18, 2004
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission feels compelled to address recent comments by the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. President George W. Bush signed the 9/11 Commission into law on November 27, 2002. In its Congressional charge, the Commission was to begin its investigation into the facts surrounding the 9/11 attacks where the Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (“JICI”) ended in order to not duplicate efforts.
In December 2002, the JICI held as one of its 19 Findings and Recommendations that the “evidentiary wall” present between criminal search warrants and FISA warrants—and the field agents lack of full understanding between these two standards of proof, was one example of our nation’s inability to fight terrorism pre-9/11. In short, the “Reno wall” was an item that was fully investigated and ultimately addressed as a Finding by the JICI.
The FSC brings this fact to the attention of the press since Rep. DeLay and Rep. Sennsenbrenner have decided to question Commissioner Jamie Gorelick’s involvement in drafting a memorandum that ratified and raised this evidentiary wall. Commissioner Gorelick’s involvement with the wall is not a new revelation however. In accordance with the Commission’s policy on conflicts of interest, as is the case with all the Commissioners, she has fully recused herself from questioning and debate surrounding issues with which she was personally involved, including discussion on the evidentiary wall.
Two areas not investigated by the JICI include the National Security Council and the Presidential Daily Briefings, the daily intelligence reports written for the President.
While the JICI attempted numerous times to access the minutes of the NSC meetings, the articles contained in the PDBs, certain budgetary information, and to interview National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Joint Inquiry’s dogged requests were wholly refused and/or denied by the White House on separation of powers grounds.
Rep. DeLay insinuates throughout his letter to Governor Kean that commissioners (including Commissioner Gorelick) are acting in contravention to the nation’s best interests. Rep. DeLay decries the “partisanship” and “self-promotion” that he claims threatens the commission’s credibility. Yet one must question Rep. DeLay’s motives in seeking the removal of Commissioner Gorelick.
Interestingly, after eleven months of negotiation with the White House, Jamie Gorelick is the only Commissioner that was given “full” access to relevant highly classified Executive Branch information – including PDBs and NSC notes – regarding our nation’s ability to defend itself against 19 hijackers on the morning of 9/11 – information that was never before examined by any non-Executive Branch investigative entity. The resignation of Ms. Gorelick would cause this information to remain un-investigated and un-addressed by the 9/11 Independent Commission in its Final Report. And, thus, our nation will not gain the benefit of this Executive Branch information in order to carry on the dialogue and debate regarding our ability to effectively and successfully fight the war on terrorism.
The Family Steering Committee was always and continues to be highly concerned with conflicts of interest. We have raised this issue a number of times in our past press releases. We continue to maintain that this Commission’s work and its Final Report must not descend into partisan politics.
The Commission’s work and its Final Report are of the utmost importance. We believe that the Commission’s Final Report will serve as an excellent way to honor the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11, by proving that we can admit to, examine, and learn from our mistakes and failures of the past.
Finally the Commission’s public hearings – with high-ranking officialsunder oath – while not perfect, prove that democracy can, indeed, work and ultimately prevail. Though we acknowledge that the Commission is a creation of Congress, we are just as cognizant of its independent nature; we would ask Rep. DeLay to acknowledge this and ask for him to respect its crucial mission by not distracting it from its important work, which will restore faith and confidence of the American people in our government.