October 3, 2003
The 9/11 Independent Commission’s status report/press conference last Tuesday, September 23, 2003, has left the Family Steering Committee (FSC) deeply concerned about the ability of this Commission to access crucial documents. Without these, the Commission will be unable to fully assess the failures that led to the events of 9/11.
Specifically, we are concerned about document requests from the National Security Council (NSC), the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and any and all other communications made by Administration officials leading up to, and including, the morning of 9/11. The FSC has been assured that access to these documents is a part of a continuing series of “negotiations” between the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Staff Director of the Commission and the White House.
At the outset of the Independent Commission’s work, the FSC was aware that Philip Zelikow was a co-author and close friend of Condoleezza Rice. We also knew that Mr. Zelikow was hired as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in early October, 2001. We had concerns about these possible conflicts of interest but we were assured that Staff Director Zelikow’s relationship with the White House would facilitate the access to Administration documentation and information.
We accepted this because we were aware of Professor Zelikow’s role in the release of certain Diplomatic Documentation for the National Archives and his testimony before the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation that “the CIA’s decision to withhold the entire PDB series from release (w)as pernicious.” (U.S. Department of State, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, April 10-11, 2000, page 8). We were aware that he also testified that “a blanket denial of all PDB’s would set a dangerous precedent.”(Ibid, page 9). Thus, the FSC had an expectation that Mr. Zelikow’s position on the release of PDB’s would also apply to the situation facing the 9/11 Commission. Access to the Administration’s documentation, transcripts, and decision-making procedures is crucial, especially the August 6, 2001, PDB, which contained information regarding attacks against the U.S. by Al Qaeda.
On Tuesday, October 7, 2003, the 9/11 Independent Commission will inform the FSC and the American people whether or not the White House has allowed access to all of the documents requested by the 9/11 Independent Commission. In order to be accepted as a full and truthful accounting of September 11th, all aspects of the Commission’s investigation must be free of suspicion. Therefore, only Chairman Kean, Vice-Chair Hamilton or Deputy Executive Director Kojm should be negotiating with the Administration regarding the release of documents.
This naturally leads to our second area of concern, which arises from recent research indicating that Philip Zelikow served as a member of the Bush Administration’s transition team. In fact, according to a Washington Post article from February 2001, “Last September, Condoleezza Rice asked Philip Zelikow, a fellow staffer on the Scowcroft NSC…to draft memos on organizing the NSC along Scowcroft’s lines. Edited by Rice and others, the memos were further refined when Rice’s deputy Stephen Hadley came on board, and Zelikow…became part of the transition…free to roam the halls of the Clinton NSC operation.”
The investigation will naturally encompass the role of many individuals involved with the Bush Administration’s NSC and PFIAB. Due to this conflict of interest, we believe Staff Director Zelikow should remove himself from any and all portions of the investigation addressing the NSC in keeping with established Commission protocols. For example, Commissioner Gorelick has removed herself from all Justice Department investigations, Commissioner Roemer and Vice Chair Hamilton have removed themselves from all Congressional oversight investigations, and Commissioners Gorton and Thompson have removed themselves from all airline investigations in response to previous vetted conflicts of interest. Should Staff Director Zelikow refuse to do so, the FSC respectfully requests his resignation as Staff Director from the 9/11 Independent Commission.