Statement of the Family Steering Committee
Regarding the Need for an Independent, Nonpartisan 9/11 Commission
April 1, 2004
Recent press reports and activities raise the concern that the independent and nonpartisan nature of the 9/11 Commission is being compromised. The Family Steering Committee (FSC) is very concerned about these recent developments.
First, according to an article in today’s Washington Post, entitled, “Bush Counsel Called 9/11 Panelist Before Clarke Testified,” White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had ex parte communication with at least one of the Commissioners, Fred Fielding, prior to Richard Clarke testifying before the Commission last week. The Washington Post also reports that Commissioner James R. Thompson might have also had contact with White House staff. Commissioners Thompson and Fielding refuse to answer as to whether they had these ex parte communications. These ex-parte communications raise serious concerns regarding the impartiality of these commissioners and questions about whether the Commission has been sidetracked from its mandate to focus on the facts and circumstances of 9/11.
The Family Steering Committee (FSC) calls upon both the White House and the 9/11 Independent Commission to answer the crippling allegations raised by the Washington Post. Critical to the success of the work of the 9/11 Commission is its ability to remain nonpartisan and independent. Ultimately at risk are the integrity, transparency and comprehensiveness of the Commission’s Final Report and its Recommendations.
Second, we request the genesis of Commissioner Fielding and Thompson’s line of questioning to Mr. Clarke. In addition, both Commissioner Fielding and Thompson should sign an affidavit that they alone researched, prepared, and gathered their own information in preparation for Mr. Clarke’s testimony.
Third, the Family Steering Committee requests an explanation as to how a “background briefing” from FOX NEWS was obtained by Commissioner James R. Thompson. We would like to know who ordered the release of that background briefing and whether Commission staff was used in the retrieval of that information.
Fourth, we call for the sweeping de-classification of the entire transcript of Richard Clarke’s testimony before the Joint Inquiry of Congress and the 9/11 Independent Commission. Further, we request the declassification of Dr. Rice’s testimony, as well as all supporting documents (such as emails, memos and correspondence) between Mr. Clark, Dr. Rice, Stephen Hadley and others involved in making decisions related to national security. We abhor the over-classification of information, and support the public release of all information so long as it does not legitimately harm national security.
Fifth, we request that going forward the Commission record and transcribe all private and public testimony, from whatever source – even the President and Vice President, in order to accurately preserve these historical testimonies. It has been reported that the Commission failed to record National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s private testimony on February 7, 2004. The failure of the 9/11 Commission to record Dr. Rice’s testimony further calls into question this Commission’s methods in conducting its investigation.
Sixth, we respectfully request that President Bush and Vice President Cheney reconsider their decision to testify together. Their testimony should be separate, in public and under oath so that the Commission can properly comprehend the individual responsibilities and decisions of the President and Vice President. Individual testimonies would provide the American public a much clearer understanding of the Administration’s leadership during a time of transition and crisis.
Finally, the Family Steering Committee continues to oppose the condition agreed to between the White House and the Commission in exchange for Dr. Rice’s public testimony. Information gathered by the ongoing investigation of the 9/11 Commission may warrant future public testimony of other White House officials.