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By THOMAS H. KEAN and LEE H. HAMILTON
Published: January 2, 2008
MORE than five years ago, Congress and President Bush created the 9/11 commission. The goal was to provide the American people with the fullest possible account of the “facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” — and to offer recommendations to prevent future attacks. Soon after its creation, the president’s chief of staff directed all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the commission.
The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.
There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the C.I.A. — or the White House — of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.
The agency did not disclose that any interrogations had ever been recorded or that it had held any further relevant information, in any form. Not satisfied with this response, we decided that we needed to question the detainees directly, including Abu Zubaydah and a few other key captives.
In a lunch meeting on Dec. 23, 2003, George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, told us point blank that we would have no such access. During the meeting, we emphasized to him that the C.I.A. should provide any documents responsive to our requests, even if the commission had not specifically asked for them. Mr. Tenet replied by alluding to several documents he thought would be helpful to us, but neither he, nor anyone else in the meeting, mentioned videotapes.
As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.’s failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.
Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton served as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the 9/11 commission.
Last edited by PressCoverage; 01-10-2008 at 08:08 AM..
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