From The Center for Grassroots Oversight
August 21, 2006
Profile: Lee Hamilton (August 21, 2006)
Web posted at: : http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/entity.jsp?entity=lee_hamilton
Lee Hamilton, the former co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, gives a wide-ranging interview to the CBC about Without Precedent, a book he recently co-authored about his time on the 9/11 Commission (see August 15, 2006). In the interview he discusses the various “conspiracy theories” surrounding the events of 9/11. The interviewer, Evan Solomon, mentions to him a recent Zogby poll (see May 17, 2006) that found that 42% of Americans agreed that “the US government, and its 9/11 Commission, concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts the official explanation of September 11th.” Hamilton calls this lack of trust in the Commission’s report “dispiriting,” but attacks the “conspiracy theory people,” saying, “when they make an assertion they do it often on very flimsy evidence.” He addresses some of the various “conspiracy theories” that have been put forward about 9/11:
In order to contradict the allegation that the Twin Towers were brought down deliberately with pre-planted explosives, Hamilton says the WTC collapsed (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001) because “the super-heated jet fuel melted the steel super-structure of these buildings and caused their collapse.” He adds, “There’s a powerful lot of evidence to sustain that point of view, including the pictures of the airplanes flying into the building.”
With regard to the collapse of WTC Building 7 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), which some people claim was also caused by explosives, he argues, “[W]e believe that it was the aftershocks of these two huge buildings in the very near vicinity collapsing. And in the Building 7 case, we think that it was a case of flames setting off a fuel container, which started the fire in Building 7, and that was our theory on Building 7.” However, the interviewer points out that the 9/11 Commission’s final report does not actually mention the collapse of Building 7, and Hamilton says he does not recall whether the Commission made a specific decision to leave it out.
In reply to a question about why the debris of Building 7 were moved quickly from the scene without a thorough investigation, even though nobody died in Building 7 and there was no need for rescue operations there, Hamilton responds, “You can’t answer every question when you conduct an investigation.”
When asked whether Saeed Sheikh sent Mohamed Atta $100,000 for the 9/11 plot (see Early August 2001 and Summer 2001 and before), Hamilton replies, “I don’t know anything about it.” When the interviewer presses him about whether the Commission investigated a possible Pakistani Secret Service (ISI) connection to the attacks, Hamilton replies, “They may have; I do not recall us writing anything about it in the report. We may have but I don’t recall it.”
Asked about Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta’s claim that Vice President Dick Cheney was in the presidential bunker beneath the White House at 9:20 a.m. on 9/11 (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), almost 40 minutes earlier than the Commission claimed he had arrived there, Hamilton replies, “I do not recall.” When pressed, he expands, “Well, we think that Vice President Cheney entered the bunker shortly before 10 o’clock. And there is a gap of several minutes there, where we do not really know what the Vice President really did. There is the famous phone call between the President and the Vice President. We could find no documentary evidence of that phone call.”
When the interviewer points out that Richard Clarke’s account conflicts with the Commission’s over what time authorization was received from Dick Cheney to shoot down Flight 93 (see (Between 9:45-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Hamilton retorts, “Look, you’ve obviously gone through the report with a fine-toothed comb, you’re raising a lot of questions—I can do the same thing.”
The interviewer also asks Hamilton whether he has any unanswered questions of his own about 9/11. Hamilton’s response is: “I could never figure out why these 19 fellas did what they did. We looked into their backgrounds. In one or two cases, they were apparently happy, well-adjusted, not particularly religious - in one case quite well-to-do, had a girlfriend. We just couldn’t figure out why he did it. I still don’t know.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/21/2006]
Entity Tags: Saeed Sheikh, World Trade Center, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Lee Hamilton, 9/11 Commission, Richard A. Clarke, Mohamed Atta, Norman Mineta
Lee Hamilton was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Sudanese government, frustrated in previous efforts to be removed from a US list of terrorism sponsors, tries a back channel /approach using Mansoor Ijaz, a multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman. Ijaz is personally acquainted with President Clinton, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and other high-level US officials. With help from Ijaz (who is also hoping to invest in Sudan), on April 5, 1997, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir writes a letter to Lee Hamilton, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It states,
“We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counterterrorism units and any other official elegations Which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with [us] in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” (*)
* -This is a reference to Sudan’s extensive files on al-Qaeda gathered during the years bin Laden lived there, which the Sudanese had offered the US before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996).
Sudan allows Ijaz to see some of these files. Ijaz discusses the letter with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Berger, and other prominent US officials, but to no success. No US official sends any reply back to Sudan.
Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan, will complain, “It was an offer US officials did not take seriously.” ABC News will report in 2002 that the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry plans to investigate Sudan’s offer. Sen. Bob Graham (D), co-chairman of the inquiry, will ask, “Why wouldn’t we be accepting intelligence from the Sudanese?”
But the inquiry’s 2003 final report will make no mention of this offer or other offers to hand over the files (see February 5, 1998; May 2000). (It should be noted the report is heavily censored so this might be discussed in redacted sections.) Hamilton, the recipient of the letter, will become the Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission’s 2004 final report will fail mention Sudan’s offers and will fail to mention the direct involvement of the Commission’s Vice Chairman in these matters. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002; ABC News, 2/20/2002](Between 10:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Bush and Cheney Said to Confer on Shootdown Orders, 9/11 Commission Doubts Their Account
According to a 9/11 Commission staff report, Vice President Cheney is told that a combat air patrol has been established over Washington. Cheney then calls President Bush to discuss the rules of engagement for the pilots. Bush authorizes the shootdown of hijacked aircraft at this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to a Washington Post article, which places the call after 9:55 a.m., “Cheney recommended that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any such civilian airliners—as momentous a decision as the president was asked to make in those first hours.”
Bush then talks to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to clarify the procedure, and Rumsfeld passes word down the chain of command. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Cheney and Bush recall having this phone call, and National Security Adviser Rice recalls overhearing it. However, as the commission notes, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete. Others nearby who were taking notes, such as the vice president’s chief of staff, [I. Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby, who sat next to him, and [Lynne] Cheney, did not note a call between the president and vice president immediately after the vice president entered the conference room.”
The commission also apparently concludes that no evidence exists to support the claim that Bush and Rumsfeld talked about such procedures at this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “The phone logs don’t exist, because they evidently got so fouled up in communications that the phone logs have nothing. So that’s the evidence we have.”
Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says of the shootdown order, “Well, I’m not sure it was carried out.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; New York Daily News, 6/18/2004] Newsweek reports that it “has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president’s account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report.
According to one knowledgeable source, some staffers ‘flat out didn’t believe the call ever took place.’” According to a 9/11 Commission staffer, the report “was watered down” after vigorous lobbying from the White House. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] An account by Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who was overseeing NORAD’s Colorado headquarters, where he claims to hear Bush give a shootdown order), as well as the order to empty the skies of aircraft, appears to be discredited. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]
George Mitchell resigns as vice chairman of the recently-created 9/11 investigative commission. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana congressman for more than 30 years and chairman of the committee which investigated the Iran-Contra affair, is named as his replacement. [CNN, 12/11/2002] Mitchell cites time constraints as his reason for stepping down, but he also does not want to sever ties with his lawyer-lobbying firm, Piper Rudnick, or reveal his list of clients. Recent clients include the governments of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. [Newsweek, 12/15/2002]
The ten members of the new 9/11 Commission are appointed by this date, and are: Republicans Thomas Kean (Chairman), Slade Gorton, James Thompson, Fred Fielding, and John Lehman, and Democrats Lee Hamilton (Vice Chairman), Max Cleland, Tim Roemer, Richard Ben-Veniste, and Jamie Gorelick. [Chicago Tribune, 12/12/2002; Associated Press, 12/16/2002; New York Times, 12/17/2002] Senators Richard Shelby (R) and John McCain (R) had a say in the choice of one of the Republican positions. They and many 9/11 victims’ relatives wanted former Senator Warren Rudman (R), who cowrote an acclaimed report about terrorism before 9/11. But Senate Republican leader Trent Lott blocks Rudman’s appointment and chooses John Lehman instead. [St. Petersburg Times, 12/12/2002; Associated Press, 12/13/2002; Reuters, 12/16/2002]
It slowly emerges over the next several months that at least six of the ten commissioners have ties to the airline industry. [CBS News, 3/5/2003] Henry Kissinger (see December 13, 2002) and his replacement Thomas Kean (see December 16, 2002) both caused controversy when they were named. In addition, the other nine members of the commission are later shown to all have potential conflicts of interest. Republican commissioners:
Fred Fielding also works for a law firm lobbying for Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. [Associated Press, 2/14/2003; CBS News, 3/5/2003]
Slade Gorton has close ties to Boeing, which built all the planes destroyed on 9/11, and his law firm represents several major airlines, including Delta Airlines. [Associated Press, 12/12/2002; CBS News, 3/5/2003]
John Lehman, former secretary of the Navy, has large investments in Ball Corp., which has many US military contracts. [Associated Press, 3/27/2003]
James Thompson, former Illinois governor, is the head of a law firm that lobbies for American Airlines, and he has previously represented United Airlines. [Associated Press, 1/31/2003; CBS News, 3/5/2003] Democratic commissioners:
Richard Ben-Veniste represents Boeing and United Airlines. [CBS News, 3/5/2003] Ben-Veniste also has other curious connections, according to a 2001 book on CIA ties to drug running written by Daniel Hopsicker, which has an entire chapter called “Who is Richard Ben-Veniste?” Lawyer Ben-Veniste, Hopsicker says, “has made a career of defending political crooks, specializing in cases that involve drugs and politics.” Ben-Veniste has been referred to in print as a “Mob lawyer,” and was a long-time lawyer for Barry Seal, one of the most famous drug dealers in US history who also is alleged to have had CIA connections. [Hopsicker, 2001, pp. 325-30]
Max Cleland, former US senator, has received $300,000 from the airline industry. [CBS News, 3/5/2003]
James Gorelick is a director of United Technologies, one of the Pentagon’s biggest defense contractors and a supplier of engines to airline manufacturers. [Associated Press, 3/27/2003]
Lee Hamilton sits on many advisory boards, including those to the CIA, the president’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and the US Army. [Associated Press, 3/27/2003]
Tim Roemer represents Boeing and Lockheed Martin. [CBS News, 3/5/2003]
Entity Tags: Fred Fielding, James Thompson, John Lehman, American Airlines, Jamie Gorelick, Lee Hamilton, John McCain, Max Cleland, Slade Gorton, Richard Shelby, 9/11 Commission, United Airlines, Warren Rudman, Tim Roemer, Trent Lott, Richard Ben-Veniste
The 9/11 Commission, officially titled the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, holds its first meeting in Washington. The commission has $3 million and only a year and a half to explore the causes of the attacks. By comparison, a 1996 federal commission to study legalized gambling was given two years and $5 million. [Associated Press, 1/27/2003] Two months later the Bush administration grudgingly increases the funding to $12 million total (see March 26, 2003). Philip Zelikow, the director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and formerly in the National Security Council during George H. W. Bush’s administration, is also appointed executive director of the commission. [Associated Press, 1/27/2003] Zelikow cowrote a book with National Security Adviser Rice and was also, in 2002, responsible for completely rewriting President Bush’s national security strategy. [9/11 Commission, 3/2003; Mann, 2004, pp. 316-317]
A few days later, Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says, “The focus of the commission will be on the future. We want to make recommendations that will make the American people more secure.… We’re not interested in trying to assess blame, we do not consider that part of the commission’s responsibility.” [United Press International, 2/6/2003]
In a book published in 2006, 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton will say that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is captured “in an early 2003 raid on a Karachi apartment orchestrated by the CIA, the FBI, and Pakistani security services.” [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 115] Pakistan and the US will announce the arrest at the beginning of March (see March 1, 2003). In contrast to the version put forward later by Kean and Hamilton, the Pakistani government initially states he is captured in a house in Rawalpindi, solely by Pakistani security forces. The US agrees on the date and place, but says it was a joint operation. [CNN, 3/2/2003; Dawn (Karachi), 3/2/2003] However, the initial account is called into question due to various problems (see March 10, 2003). It is unclear whether Kean and Hamilton realize that the passing reference in their book is at variance with the initial account.
It is reported that “most members” of the 9/11 Commission still have not received security clearances. [Washington Post, 3/27/2003] For instance, Slade Gorton, picked in December 2002, is a former senator with a long background in intelligence issues. Fellow commissioner Lee Hamilton says, “It’s kind of astounding that someone like Senator Gorton can’t get immediate clearance. It’s a matter we are concerned about.” The commission is said to be at a “standstill” because of the security clearance issue, and cannot even read the classified findings of the previous 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. [Seattle Times, 3/12/2003]March 31-July 9, 2003 and After: 9/11 Commission Initially Conducts Little Noticed Background Policy Hearings
The 9/11 Commission holds its first three hearings in the spring and summer of 2003 on topics such as the experience of the attack, congressional oversight, and whether Iraq was behind 9/11 (see March 31, 2003). [9/11 Commission, 4/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/9/2003 ] These hearings do not receive much publicity and Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-chairman Lee Hamilton will later call them “background policy hearings in front of a C-SPAN audience.” The victims’ families are frustrated by this, by the lack of tough questioning, and by the fact that witnesses are not placed under oath. Kean and Hamilton later say that at this point the Commission “was not ready to present findings and answers” since the various staff teams are nowhere near completing their tasks. For example, the team investigating the air defense failure on the day of 9/11 does not even issue a subpoena for the documents it needs until autumn (see Late October 2003 and October-November 2003). [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 127-8]
Several months into its investigation, the 9/11 Commission is already dissatisfied with the Department of Defense (see July 8, 2003). When its staff take a tour of a Northeast Air Defense Sector facility in Rome, New York, which helped coordinate the air defense on the day of 9/11, the staff enter the operations room, which has “more than twenty banks of operators: some weapons controllers and some flight controllers.”
The staff find that the operators’ conversations are always tape-recorded, but the tapes for 9/11 have not yet been sent to the commission and, according to Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton, “there were also discrepancies between things NORAD was telling [the commission] about their performance on the morning of September—things that the agency had stated publicly after 9/11—and the story told by the limited tapes and documents the commission had received.”
Upon learning of the existence of the tapes, team leader John Farmer immediately suspends the tour and the interviews and flies to meet Kean in New Jersey. The commission subsequently subpoenas NORAD for the tapes (see October-November 2003), but, according to Kean and Hamilton, this means that “the staff had lost so much time that our hearing on the 9/11 story in the skies was postponed for months. Indeed, the delays from NORAD and the FAA made it highly unlikely that the team could complete its work as scheduled.” [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 85-88] Chapter 1 of the commission’s final report will draw heavily on the tapes. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-46]
However, the commission does not make the same effort with all day of 9/11 recordings. For example, it does not even find out which person(s) from the Department of Defense participated in a White House video conference chaired by counter-terrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke during the attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36]April 13, 2004: Attorney General Blames ‘Wall’ for 9/11 Failures, but 9/11 Commission Believes He Is Exaggerating
Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly testifies before the 9/11 Commission, claims there was no program to kill Osama bin Laden before 9/11, and blames the “wall” (see July 19, 1995) for the 9/11 attacks. Ashcroft says, “Let me be clear: my thorough review revealed no covert action program to kill bin Laden.” However, the 9/11 Commission has already found a Memorandum of Notification signed by President Clinton in 1998 after the embassy bombings that allowed CIA assets to kill bin Laden, and two commissioners, Fred Fielding and Richard Ben-Veniste, point this out to Ashcroft. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 132, 485]
The attorney general comments, “The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the ‘wall’ that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this ‘wall.’ Government buttressed this ‘wall.’ And before September 11, government was blinded by this ‘wall.’”
The wall was a set of procedures that regulated the passage of information from FBI intelligence agents to FBI criminal agents and prosecutors to ensure that information obtained using warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would not be thrown out from criminal cases (see July 19, 1995). Ashcroft says that the wall impeded the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui and that a “warrant was rejected because FBI officials feared breaching the ‘wall.’” (Note: two applications to search Moussaoui’s belongings were prepared. The first was not submitted because it was thought to be “shaky” (see August 21, 2001). The second warrant application was prepared as a part of an intelligence investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, so it was not affected by the “wall” (see August 28, 2001)).
According to Ashcroft, the wall also impeded the search for hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi because criminal investigators were not allowed to join in. However, the 9/11 Commission will find that they could legally have helped, but were prevented from doing so by FBI headquarters (see August 29, 2001). Ashcroft asserts that 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick was responsible for the wall.
He cites a document he just declassified that had been written by Gorelick to deal with the two 1993 WTC bombing cases (see March 4, 1995). That document becomes known as the “wall memo.” However, this memo only governed the two WTC cases; all other cases were governed by a different, but similar memo written by Attorney General Janet Reno a few months later (see July 19, 1995). [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004]
9/11 Commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton will say that the “attorney general’s claim was overstated,” and that the two 1995 memos only codified a set of procedures that already existed (see Early 1980s). During questioning, Republican 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton points out that Ashcroft’s deputy reaffirmed the procedures in an August 2001 memo that stated, “The 1995 procedures remain in effect today” (see August 6, 2001). [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 194-6]
Attorney General John Ashcroft’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission (see April 13, 2004) sparks a wave of attacks against 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, who was Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. In 1995 Gorelick played a leading role in extending the “wall,” a set of procedures that regulated the passage of information from FBI intelligence agents to FBI criminal agents and prosecutors (see March 4, 1995 and July 19, 1995). Ashcroft calls the wall “the single greatest structural cause for September 11.” The attacks include
On April 14 James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, calls on Gorelick to resign because of her “crippling conflict of interest.” He says “the public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives” and argues that the commission will be “fatally damaged” if she continues. Other Republican congresspersons repeat this call;
On April 16 House Majority Leader Tom Delay writes to Commission Chairman Tom Kean saying Gorelick has a conflict of interest and accusing the commission of “partisan mudslinging, circus-atmosphere pyrotechnics, and gotcha-style questioning,” as well as undermining the war effort and endangering the troops;
Criticism of Gorelick also appears in several media publications, including the New York Times, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, and Wall Street Journal. For example, an op-ed piece published in the New York Times by former terrorism commissioners Juliette Kayyem and Wayne Downing says the commissioners are talking too much and should “shut up.” [National Review, 4/13/2004; National Review, 4/19/2004; Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 200-203]
On April 22 Senator Christopher Boyd and ten other Republican senators write to the commission calling on Gorelick to testify in public;
On April 26 Congressman Lamar Smith and 74 other Republicans write to Gorelick demanding answers to five questions about her time as deputy attorney general;
On April 28 the Justice Department declassifies other memos signed by Gorelick;
In addition to hate mail, Gorelick receives a bomb threat, requiring a bomb disposal squad to search her home.
Commission Chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton will call this an “onslaught” and say her critics used the wall “as a tool to bludgeon Jamie Gorelick, implicate the Clinton administration, and undermine the credibility of the commission before we had even issued our report.” Gorelick offers to resign, but the other commissioners support her and she writes a piece for the Washington Post defending herself. [Washington Post, 4/18/2004; Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 200-205]
When the commission meets President Bush and Vice President Cheney at the end of the month (see April 29, 2004), Bush tells Kean and Hamilton he does not approve of memos being declassified and posted on the Justice Department’s website. At this point, the commissioners realize “the controversy over Jamie Gorelick’s service on the commission was largely behind us.” That afternoon, the White House publicly expresses the president’s disappointment over the memos and the effort to discredit Gorelick loses momentum. [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 208, 210]April 29, 2004: Bush and Cheney Privately Meet with 9/11 Commission; Decline to Provide Testimony Under Oath
President Bush and Vice President Cheney appear for three hours of private questioning before the 9/11 Commission. (Former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore met privately and separately with the commission earlier in the month. [Washington Post, 4/30/2004; New York Times, 4/30/2004] )
The commission permits Bush and Cheney to appear together, in private, and not under oath. The testimony is not recorded. Commissioners can take notes, but the notes are censored by the White House. [Knight Ridder, 3/31/2004; Newsweek, 4/2/2004; New York Times, 4/3/2004]
The commission drew most of their questions from a list submitted to the White House before the interview, but few details about the questions or the answers given are available. [Washington Post, 4/29/2004]
Two commissioners, Lee Hamilton and Bob Kerrey, leave the session early for other engagements. They claim they had not expected the interview to last more than the previously agreed upon two-hour length. [New York Times, 5/1/2004]
The first day of the 9/11 Commission’s eleventh public hearing in New York produces an adverse reaction in the New York press, due to questioning of former city officials by Commissioner John Lehman. The second day is begun by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose opening statement draws considerable applause from the audience and who won Time magazine’s Person of the Year award for 2001. [Time, 12/22/2001; Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 226-228]
According to Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Co-chairman Lee Hamilton, “Each commissioner opens his or her questioning with lavish praise.”
For instance, Richard Ben-Veniste: “Your leadership on that day and in the days following gave the rest of the nation, and indeed the world, an unvarnished view of the indomitable spirit and the humanity of this great city, and for that I salute you.”
Jim Thompson thanks him for “setting an example to us all.”
John Lehman: “There was no question the captain was on the bridge.”
Kean: “New York City on that terrible day in a sense was blessed because it had you as a leader.”
This draws a mixed reaction from the audience, some of whom support Giuliani and some of whom want “real questions.” Kean and Hamilton will later say that: “The questioning of Mayor Giuliani was a low point in terms of the commission’s questioning of witnesses at our public hearings. We did not ask tough questions, nor did we get all of the information we needed to put on the public record. We were affected by the controversy over Lehman’s comments, and by the excellent quality of the mayor’s presentation.” [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 228-231]August 12, 2005: 9/11 Commission Heads Says Officer Who Briefed Commission on Able Danger Provided ‘No Documentary Evidence’
Former leaders of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, release a statement saying that panel staff members have found no documents or other witnesses that support allegations that hijacker Mohamed Atta was identified by a secret Pentagon program, known as Able Danger, before the 9/11 attacks.
The existence of Able Danger first received wide public attention a few days before by the New York Times (see August 11, 2005). According to the commissioners, “The interviewee had no documentary evidence” to back up his claims and “the Commission staff concluded that the officer’s account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation.” [Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, 8/12/2005 ; Washington Post, 8/13/2005]September 13, 2005: Revised Version of 9/11’s Commission’s FAA Report Released; Some Material Still Blacked Out
A new version of a report by the 9/11 Commission on the FAA and 9/11, which was completed in August 2004, is publicly released. A heavily censored version of the same report came out in February 2005 (see February 10, 2005). Commission members complained that the deleted material included information crucial to understanding what went wrong on 9/11.
The newly released version restores dozens of portions of the report, but numerous references to shortcomings in aviation security remain blacked out. Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the former heads of the 9/11 Commission, state: “While we still believe that the entire document could be made available to the public without damaging national security, we welcome this step forward.” Commission officials say they were perplexed by the White House’s original attempts to black out material that they considered trivial or mundane. [Associated Press, 9/13/2005; New York Times, 9/14/2005]August 15, 2006: Former Heads of 9/11 Commission Release Book; Claim Their Commission was ‘Set Up to Fail’ by Bush Administration
Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the former chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, release a book giving a behind-the-scenes look at their 20-month investigation of the September 11 attacks. [Associated Press, 8/4/2006] They begin their book, titled Without Precedent, saying that, because their investigation started late, had a very short time frame, and had inadequate funding, they both felt, from the beginning, that they “were set up to fail.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/21/2006; Rocky Mountain News, 8/25/2006]
They explain the difficulties they faced in obtaining certain government documents and describe how the commission almost splintered over whether to investigate the Bush administration’s use of 9/11 as a reason for going to war.
It says that if original member Max Cleland—a strong proponent of this line of inquiry—had not resigned (see December 9, 2003), the commission probably would not have reached unanimity. It also calls their gentle questioning of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani during his May 2004 testimony, “a low point” in the commission’s handling of witnesses at its public hearings (see May 19, 2004). [Associated Press, 8/4/2006; New York Daily News, 8/5/2006; New York Times, 8/6/2006]
Despite the problems it faced, when discussing his book with the CBC, Hamilton says he thinks the commission has “been reasonably successful in telling the story” of 9/11.
[Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/21/2006] Without Precedent, however, contains little new information about the events of 9/11. Intelligence expert James Bamford says there is “an overabundance of self-censorship by the authors.” [New York Times, 8/20/2006]
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