View Full Version : A 'Redaction': In the 9/11 Commission We (Once) Trust(ed)

02-18-2005, 01:17 PM
A 'redaction': In the 9/11 commission we (once) trust(ed)

Thursday, February 17, 2005 - 02:36 PM
By Bob Braun -- Star Ledger - Thursday, February 17, 2005
It was a matter of trust.

Trust the members of the 9/11 commission would level with us about what happened that day. Would find a way to get around the awful political pressures of a presidential election year.

So, last July, when the book came out, there was some disappointment that the panel assigned bipartisan blame despite the Clinton administration's successful foiling of the Millennium Plot in 1999 -- proof that an alert administration, working very hard every day for months, could stop terrorism despite the absence of knowledge of specific plans.

So, okay, it couldn't hurt President Clinton anymore. If that's the political pound of flesh demanded by the Republicans on the commission, so be it.

But the day the report was released, members of the commission -- led by its chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean -- assured us all that everything we needed to know about what happened that day was right there in the pretty new book. Just read it closely enough -- you'd see.

"It wasn't true -- there was a lot that wasn't in the report, but we couldn't know it," says Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, one of the so-called Jersey widows who lobbied for creation of the commission and tried to keep the panel on task despite resistance from the national administration.

"I feel such outrage," says Van Auken, whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center. "We still don't know what happened."

She should be outraged. Because last week, a commission report was finally released that contained a lot more information we all should have known last summer.

In July, this is what the commission reported about what the Federal Aviation Administration knew of hijacking threats:

"The FAA's intelligence unit did not receive much attention from the agency's leadership. Neither administrator Jane Garvey nor her deputy routinely reviewed daily intelligence and what they did see was screened for them. She was unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her own intelligence unit, which, in turn, was not deeply involved in the agency's policymaking process."

Doesn't sound like much, does it? Not much to go on.

But this is what the commission staff, in the report finally released this week, really wrote:

"Much of this threat information was contained in the daily intelligence summaries produced by FAA's security branch for the agency's leaders. The summaries were based on reporting it received from the U.S. intelligence community and other sources. Among the 105 summaries issued between April 10, 2001, and September 10, 2001, almost half mentioned (Osama) Bin Laden, al Qaeda, or both, mostly in regard to overseas threats.

"Of the 52 summaries mentioning Bin Laden or al Qaeda, 5 mentioned hijacking as a capability al Qaeda was training for or possessed. Two mentioned suicide operations, but not connected to threats to aviation."

The report then quoted a security briefing sent to airports -- including Newark, Logan in Boston and Washington Dulles -- that chillingly, and prophetically, noted: "If, however, the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange prisoners for hostages, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

To commit suicide in a spectacular explosion.

The commission did not suppress its own report. The U.S. Justice Department did. That agency also heavily censored it -- the euphemism we're all using now is "redacted." It sounds so much nicer than "censor."

No one can blame the 9/11 commission members for the delay in the publication of its report, nor for the deletions of information that Kean himself admits do not affect national security.

But the commission easily could have warned us that important information had been left out of its nice thick book at the insistence of the Justice Department. It could have warned us that our government knew much more than it had previously admitted about the likelihood of domestic attacks.

Could have, but didn't. Now we have to wonder what was deleted from the heavily censored report. Kean, who knows, says it's just material embarrassing to the FAA. I guess we'll have to take that on trust.

Bob Braun's columns appear Monday and Thursday. He can be reached at (973) 392-4281 or at rjbraun@webspan.net.

10-26-2005, 02:50 PM

01-27-2006, 11:37 PM

06-12-2007, 07:51 PM