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  xMonday, May 12, 2003

bush's 9/11 achilles heel


It seems that Bush is going farther than I thought to keep the story about what he knew, when he knew it, and what, if anything, he did to prevent the 9/11 attacks from becoming public: Not content with redacting the existing record, he's going to try the old standby of presidents with something ot hide, executive privilege.
President Bush’s chief lawyer has privately signaled that the White House may seek to invoke executive privilege over key documents relating to the attacks in order to keep them out of the hands of investigators for the National Commission on Terror Attacks Upon the United States—the independent panel created by Congress to probe all aspects of 9-11.

...Some commission members now fear a showdown over the issue—particularly over extremely sensitive National Security Council minutes and presidential briefing papers—could be coming in the next few weeks. “We do think it’s important to engage this issue relatively early—i.e., now,” says Philip Zelikow, the executive director for the commission, who is negotiating with administration lawyers to inspect documents and interview senior officials.

...Zelikow’s comments, and even stronger ones from some commission members, suggest that last week’s brief contretemps over access to transcripts of secret congressional testimony was only one small flare-up in a much broader and potentially high-stakes struggle that could ultimately wind up in federal court.

Just two weeks ago, one commission member, Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, had sought to read transcripts of three days of closed hearings that had been held last fall by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees—hearings that Roemer, as a member of the House panel, had actually participated in.

But when Roemer went down to a carefully guarded room on Capitol Hill to read the classified transcripts—he says to refresh his memory—he was stunned to learn that he couldn’t have access to them. The reason, relayed by a congressional staffer, was that Zelikow had acceded to a request by an administration official to permit lawyers to first review them to determine if the transcripts contained testimony about “privileged” material.

...[S]ome commission members say it might be politically difficult for the White House to sustain that position—especially given the panel’s broad legal mandate to unearth all pertinent facts relating to the events of 9-11. The invocation of executive privilege could fuel suspicions that the White House is stonewalling the panel in order to cover up politically embarrassing mistakes. “I think they have got to be worried about this,” says one panel member. “This is a bipartisan commission, and we’ve got the family members.”

Among the most sensitive documents the commission is known to be interested in reviewing are internal National Security Council minutes from the spring and summer of 2001 when the CIA and other intelligence agencies were warning that an attack by Al Qaeda could well be imminent. The panel is also expected to seek interviews with key principals—such as national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her chief deputy, Stephen J. Hadley—to question them both about advice they gave the president and about what actions they took to deal with the rising concerns of intelligence-community officials about the Qaeda threat.

Some conservatives may be perfectyl happy with Bush's evident failure to take any action at all -- however ineffective -- to safeguard the United States, but I believe that much of the American public would not be so sanguine, especially as Bush clambers over the bodies of 3,000 of their countrymen and -women to launch his re-election bid.

In 2000, Bush campaigned on integrity; in 2004, hitting him on integrity and competence should be a winning strategy.

(via Through the Looking Glass)





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