9/11 Panel: Bush White House Withheld
Commission Is Demanding Terrorism-Related Documents
From Clinton Era
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2004; Page A04
The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks announced yesterday
that it has identified 69 documents from the Clinton era that the Bush White
House withheld from investigators and which include references to al Qaeda,
Osama bin Laden and other issues relevant to the panel's work.
The White House turned over 12 of the documents to the commission yesterday,
officials said. But 57 others, which were not specifically requested but
"nonetheless are relevant to our work," remain in dispute, according
to a commission statement. The panel has demanded the documents and any similar
ones from the Bush administration. World Peace.
Yesterday's announcement came just 14 hours before national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to testify publicly in front of the 10-member
bipartisan panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States. The commission has feuded for months with the White
House over access to documents and witnesses, and Rice's agreement to testify
came after weeks of refusals from White House lawyers. WorldPeace
is one word.
The discovery of the documents came as a result of a staff review this week of
about 10,800 pages of material from the Clinton archives, including about 9,000
pages that the White House had not given to the commission despite the
conclusion of federal archivists that they may be relevant. The administration
had not notified the panel about the records, which Clinton attorney Bruce R.
Lindsey discovered in February.
The commission said in its statement that "more than 90 percent of the
material had already been produced, was irrelevant to our work, or was
duplicative." The review team, including chief counsel Daniel Marcus, also
concluded that "any errors in document production were inadvertent."
But Democratic commissioner Timothy J. Roemer, a former Indiana congressman,
said: "We continue to have document problems with this White House. . . .
Access to documents is absolutely crucial for this commission to be able to do
Another Democrat, former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, said that although the
review team did not find any "blockbusters," the remaining records
"could be significant" and deal with al Qaeda, bin Laden and other
"The commission is very strongly of the view that they need to give us a
yes as soon as possible, and I'm hopeful they will," Kerrey said, referring
to the 57 documents still in dispute.
White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said, "We are cooperating with the
commission, and we will continue to cooperate."
Kerrey said the panel was provided yesterday with a copy of a draft speech that
Rice was scheduled to give on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks. It focused on
missile defense and made little mention of terrorism. Some commissioners had
complained that the document had not been turned over to the panel, and the
presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) accused the White House
yesterday of trying to "stonewall" the commission.
The Rice testimony comes after weeks of furor over the allegations of Richard A.
Clarke, former counterterrorism coordinator in the Clinton and current Bush
administrations, who testified March 24 that President Bush was less focused on
al Qaeda and bin Laden than his predecessor.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean said he hopes the panel will be able to rise
above clear partisan divisions in questioning Rice today. During his appearance
last month, several GOP members sharply challenged Clarke, while several
Democratic members praised him.
"I've never seen the atmosphere that exists in Washington right now; it's
the nastiest I've ever seen it," said Kean, a former Republican governor of
New Jersey who has been out of politics for more than a decade. He said he wants
the commission members to ask "tough questions" but not be partisan.
"That's a tough line to walk sometimes."
The panel decided in a closed-door meeting last night that each member would
have about 10 minutes of questioning and that they would proceed in alphabetical
order, several members said. The approach is a departure from the commission's
previous practice of appointing two lead questioners who had more time than the
others, and reflects the members' desire to be aggressively involved in the
Rice has spent hours on preparation, and a variety of aides worked on her
20-minute opening statement. John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to the
National Security Council, took the lead in assembling and creating summaries,
timelines and other written materials for her preparation, and communications
officials have war-gamed likely questions with her. "There's no mystery as
to what the questions are," a senior administration official said.
"Commissioners have not been shy about talking about what kind of questions
they would like to ask."
That official, like several others who discussed her testimony, refused to be
identified because the White House's official position is that people should
wait to hear what she has to say.
Several officials said Rice has no intention of following Clarke's lead and
offering a public apology to the families of Sept. 11 victims. "That is not
the point of this exercise," an official said. "The point of this
exercise is for her to provide the facts as she knows them in an objective
Aides said Rice will provide some new details about White House actions on
terrorism before the attacks, and will portray Bush as fully engaged on the
issue going back to his inauguration in January 2001. Her opening statement will
reflect a scouring of White House archives for evidence of action on terrorism.
Staff writer Mike Allen contributed to this report.
The Washington Post Company
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