National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

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U.S. Congress Inquiry
9/11 Commission

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, was set up in late 2002 "to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the" September 11, 2001 attacks including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The commission was also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks. Some have compared its important, and potentially controversial, role to that of the Warren Commission of 1963-1964.

Chaired by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, the Commission was comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans.

The Commission's final report was a very lengthy book, based on extensive interviews and testimony, but its primary conclusion was that the failures of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation permitted the terrorist attacks to occur and that had these agencies acted more wisely and more aggressively, the attacks could potentially have been prevented.



The members of the Commission were:

The Commission's Executive Director was Philip D. Zelikow, and the Deputy Executive Director was Christopher Kojm.

Past and present government officials who were called to testify include:

President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former President Bill Clinton, and former Vice President Al Gore all gave private testimony. President Bush and Vice President Cheney insisted on testifying together, while Clinton and Gore met with the panel separately.


Main article: 9/11 Commission Report

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The cover of the final 9/11 report, which can be purchased in bookstores across the United States and around the world

The commission issued its final report on July 22, 2004. After releasing the report, Commission Chair Thomas Kean declared that both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had been "not well served" by the FBI and CIA [1] ( The commission interviewed over 1,200 people in 10 countries and reviewed over two and a half million pages of documents, including some closely-guarded classified national security documents. Before it was released by the commission, the final public report was screened for any potentially classified information and edited as necessary.

Additionally, the commission has released several supplemental reports on the terrorists' financing, travel, and other matters.


Because the investigation was controversial and politically sensitive, many participants have been criticised during the process. Most of the complaints fit into the following categories.

Claims of bias within the commission

Some members of victims' families have claimed that the commission has numerous conflicts of interest. 9/11 CitizensWatch, in particular, called for the resignation of Philip D. Zelikow, the executive staff director. Zelikow is a Bush-appointee who served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He spent three years on the President George H. W. Bush's National Security Council. Zelikow worked closely with Bush NSC advisor Condoleezza Rice and even co-wrote a book with her. Some worry that Zelikow may be using his power to deflect blame from himself and to protect Rice.

In addition, many members had ties which could be viewed as conflicts of interest.

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Members of the 9/11 commission. Top row: Ben-Veniste, Lehman, Roemer, Thompson, Kerrey, Gorton. Bottom row: Fielding, Hamilton, Kean, Gorelick.
  • Thomas Kean has ties to the National Endowment for Democracy, a long-time conduit of CIA covert operations abroad. Kean also has a history of investments that link him to Saudi investors who have financially supported both George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden in the past. One example is his former business connections to Khalid bin Mahfouz, an alleged terrorist financier.
  • Fred F. Fielding has done legal work for two of Bush's leading "Pioneer" fund-raisers. Fielding also works for a law firm lobbying for Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.
  • 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.
  • James Thompson is the head of a law firm that lobbies for American Airlines, and he has previously represented United Airlines.
  • Richard Ben-Veniste has represented Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe, and continues to represent Boeing and United Airlines.
  • Max Cleland, former US senator, has received $300,000 from the airline industry. He has since resigned from the commission.
  • Lee Hamilton sits on many advisory boards, including those to the CIA, the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council, and the US Army.
  • Tim Roemer represents Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
  • Jamie Gorelick's firm has agreed to represent Prince Mohammed al Faisal in the suit by the 9/11 families. The families contend that al Faisal has legal responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. According to Attorney General John Ashcroft in his testimony before the commission, Gorelick wrote a procedural memo that would have prevented communication between various government agencies (the wall memo[2] ( Ashcroft later recanted this claim when it was pointed out that 'the wall' predated Gorelick's tenure by many years and his own Justice department had reaffirmed and strengthened the positions taken in her memo.

The commission's defenders claim that these do not represent significant conflicts of interest, and that the commission can be expected to maintain its neutrality.

Claims of lack of cooperation from the White House

In April 2002, Bush said that the investigation into 9\11 should be confined to Congress because it deals with sensitive information that could reveal sources and methods of intelligence. [3] ( But by September, the White House came under intense fire concerning the commission from many victims' families [4] ( President Bush promptly responded, only a few days later, that he now supported the creation of an independent 9\11 commission. [5] (

However, The White House insisted that they be able to appoint the commission's chair, leading some to question the commission's independence. The initial person appointed to head the commission, Henry Kissinger, has been accused by many of having been involved in past government coverups in South America (specifically, the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile).

Even after Kissinger resigned, the White House was often cited as having attempted to block the release of information to the commission [6] ( and for refusing to give interviews without tight conditions attached (leading to threats to subpoena [7] ( They have further been accused of attempting to derail the commission by giving it one of the smallest independent commission funding levels in recent history ($3 million [8] (,8599,437267,00.html)), and by giving the commission a very short deadline. The White House insists that they have given the commission "unprecedented cooperation".

While President Bush and Vice President Cheney did ultimately agree to testify, they did so only under several conditions:

  • That they would be allowed to testify jointly;
  • That they would not be required to take an oath before testifying;
  • That the testimony would not be recorded electronically or transcribed, and that the only record would be notes taken by one of the commission staffers;
  • That these notes would not be made public.

The commission agreed to these conditions, and the President and Vice President gave their testimony on April 29.

Claims that the commission is being used for partisan purposes

Some conservatives believe that the Democratic Party used the commission for partisan advantage during the 2004 election campaign. Rather than focusing equally on all factors, critics predicted that Congressional Democrats would ignore any policy errors made by Bill Clinton while emphasizing the mistakes of President Bush.[9] (

In contrast many opponents of the Bush administration believe that the commission was set up to perform a superficial examination of the background of the attacks. Thereby meeting public demands for an investigation while still preventing any substantive examination. Also they argue that Republicans on the commission and in Congress ignored mistakes of the Bush admistration while exaggerating those made by former President Clinton.

External links


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