STATEMENT BY THE FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE
FOR THE 9/11 INDEPENDENT COMMISSION
REGARDING THE NEED FOR AN EXTENSION
January 22, 2004
With little more than four months until May 27th, we feel that the Commission must request an extension from Congress regardless of whether the extension deadline is prior to or after the election. Our reasons are as follows:
- The scaling back of the number and scope of public hearings. During the first year of the Commission’s investigation, the Commission repeatedly promised that substantive, hard-hitting, investigative hearings with testimony from high-ranking officials would commence in January 2004. According to a recent Washington Post article and certain Commissioner’s own admissions, these promised hearings are now being curtailed and/or cancelled due to time constraints.
- The discovery of new information of probative value in need of further investigation by the Commission. Recently, new information with regard to 9/11 has been revealed. (See Newsweek, Mike Isikoff; See N.Y.Observer, Gail Sheehy) According to media accounts, staff operations at the Commission are “frenzied” in their rush to complete their work by the May 27th deadline. As a result, certain specific, relevant information with regard to 9/11 is being “turned away” because of the Commission’s need to focus on only broad issues. (See N.Y.Observer, comment by unnamed Commissioner)
- The need for a Classified Final Report. The Commission is currently preparing a non-classified Final Report to be due out on May 27, 2004. The Commission, thereafter plans to release certain “supplemental classified monoliths.” While this controlled release of information may please certain intelligence agency officials, the FSC is opposed to it. The FSC suggests the Commission issue a fully classified Final Report that would then be de-classified through the use of visible redactions. The FSC would recommend the Commission look towards the Joint Inquiry’s Final Report as their model. The preparation of a classified Final Report requires more time and preparation by both Commissioners and Staff.
The FSC has spoken to 8 out of 10 Commissioners. All eight Commissioners are in favor of an extension for the Commission.
Moreover, Congressional support for an extension is also apparent. Senator John McCain, a co-sponsor of the original legislation that created the Independent Commission has stated, “They know they have plenty of people who would support them and force votes. They’ve got to have the guts to formally request it. So far, they haven’t shown that.”
January 20, 2004
Governor Thomas H. Kean, Chairman
Hon. Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chairman
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street, S.W., Suite 5125
Washington, DC 20407
Dear Chairman Kean and Vice Chairman Hamilton,
We write you today to formally request a meeting with the Commissioners and senior Commission staff to discuss the progress of the Commission to date. We respectfully suggest that the meeting occur next week, either preceding or following the public hearings on January 26th and 27th.
With little more than four months until May 27th, we feel that the Commission does not have adequate time to fulfill its mandate. An article in yesterday’s Washington Post said that the Commission “has already decided to scale back the number and scope of hearings that it will hold for the public.” The article goes on to characterize the frenzied nature of staff operations in a rush to complete work by the May 27th deadline.
When President Bush signed into law the legislation that created the Commission, his expectation was that it would hold public hearings, in no small part as a way to restore confidence in a government that was made to look weak and inadequate by the events of 9/11. Respectfully, we question whether the hearings to date have had that desired effect. Additionally, Family Steering Committee cooperation has been predicated on Commissioners’ promises to hold meaningful and substantive hearings in the future. While we have no doubt that these assurances were made in good faith, we are concerned that circumstances have forced the Commission to re-evaluate this position.
It should also go without saying that anything less than a cogent and comprehensive final report will be wholly unacceptable to the American people in general and the families of the 9/11 victims in particular. Yet articles in various newspapers – together with anecdotal information – lead the Family Steering Committee to believe that this is the only possible outcome absent an extension. We want to express our strong commitment to supporting an extension if the staff and the Commissioners feel that extra time is warranted, regardless of whether the report comes out prior to, or after, the election. Again we are asking that we all rise above politics and work towards the most complete report.
Thank you very much for your consideration of this request. Should you have any questions regarding the Family Steering Committee’s availability during these days, please call Bill Harvey at (917) 648-6102. As time is of the essence, we will follow up with Commission staff later today.
The Family Steering Committee