The Family Steering Committee Statement Regarding Condoleezza Rice's Testimony
March 30, 2004
The Family Steering Committee is pleased to learn that Condoleezza Rice will testify under oath in a public hearing.
This is good news and will undoubtedly make the 9/11 Commission's Final Report more complete, comprehensive, and transparent in nature.
More than anything, the families want to know why our nation was so vulnerable to 19 hijackers on the morning of 9/11. We look forward to Ms. Rice answering questions about her priorities as National Security Advisor to the President, the processes used before, and after, 9/11 to share critical intelligence and other related data regarding this country’s counter terrorism activities within the government, her knowledge of Al-Qaeda, and her role, and the role of the NSC--leading up to, on, and after the morning of 9/11.
We are hopeful that the information gleaned from Ms. Rice's public testimony can be used by the Commission as part of their investigation and be included in their Final Report and Recommendations to help minimize the chances of a future attack and thus, save lives.
Upon the signing of the 9/11 Commission into law, President Bush stated that the Commission's work was their most solemn duty. He also stated that the Commission must go wherever the facts may lead. We hope that the following qualifying language presented in the letter to the Commission regarding Ms. Rice's testimony does not now contradict these words:
"The Commission must agree in writing that it will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice. The National Security Advisor is uniquely situated to provide the Commission with information necessary to fulfill its statutory mandate. Indeed, it is for this reason that Dr. Rice privately met with the Commission for more than four hours on February 7, fully answered every question posed to her, and offered additional private meetings if necessary. Despite the fact that the Commission will therefore have access to all information of which Dr. Rice is aware, the Commission has nevertheless urged that public confidence in the work of the Commission would be enhanced by Dr. Rice appearing publicly before the Commission. Other White House officials with information relevant to the Commission's inquiry do not come within the scope of the Commission's rationale for seeking public testimony from Dr. Rice. These officials will continue to provide the Commission with information through private meetings, briefings, and documents, consistent with our previous practice."Consistent with Bush’s statement upon the formation of the Commission, the FSC sincerely hopes that the commission will be given full and unfettered access to any officials in the White House whom they feel it is necessary to interview under oath.
The above condition, which prohibits them from seeking further public testimony, is of particular concern because decisions made by those officials on the day of 9/11 are critically important to provide a full accounting to the American public.
Nevertheless, the families are cautiously optimistic that Dr. Rice's public appearance before the Commission will enhance its ability to produce the kind of Final Report that the nation deserves.
Statement of the Family Steering Committee Regarding the Need for an Independent, Nonpartisan 9/11 Commission
April 1, 2004
Recent press reports and activities raise the concern that the independent and nonpartisan nature of the 9/11 Commission is being compromised. The Family Steering Committee (FSC) is very concerned about these recent developments.
First, according to an article in today's Washington Post, entitled, "Bush Counsel Called 9/11 Panelist Before Clarke Testified," White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had ex parte communication with at least one of the Commissioners, Fred Fielding, prior to Richard Clarke testifying before the Commission last week. The Washington Post also reports that Commissioner James R. Thompson might have also had contact with White House staff. Commissioners Thompson and Fielding refuse to answer as to whether they had these ex parte communications. These ex-parte communications raise serious concerns regarding the impartiality of these commissioners and questions about whether the Commission has been sidetracked from its mandate to focus on the facts and circumstances of 9/11.
The Family Steering Committee (FSC) calls upon both the White House and the 9/11 Independent Commission to answer the crippling allegations raised by the Washington Post. Critical to the success of the work of the 9/11 Commission is its ability to remain nonpartisan and independent. Ultimately at risk are the integrity, transparency and comprehensiveness of the Commission's Final Report and its Recommendations.
Second, we request the genesis of Commissioner Fielding and Thompson's line of questioning to Mr. Clarke. In addition, both Commissioner Fielding and Thompson should sign an affidavit that they alone researched, prepared, and gathered their own information in preparation for Mr. Clarke's testimony.
Third, the Family Steering Committee requests an explanation as to how a "background briefing" from FOX NEWS was obtained by Commissioner James R. Thompson. We would like to know who ordered the release of that background briefing and whether Commission staff was used in the retrieval of that information.
Fourth, we call for the sweeping de-classification of the entire transcript of Richard Clarke's testimony before the Joint Inquiry of Congress and the 9/11 Independent Commission. Further, we request the declassification of Dr. Rice’s testimony, as well as all supporting documents (such as emails, memos and correspondence) between Mr. Clark, Dr. Rice, Stephen Hadley and others involved in making decisions related to national security. We abhor the over-classification of information, and support the public release of all information so long as it does not legitimately harm national security.
Fifth, we request that going forward the Commission record and transcribe all private and public testimony, from whatever source – even the President and Vice President, in order to accurately preserve these historical testimonies. It has been reported that the Commission failed to record National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's private testimony on February 7, 2004. The failure of the 9/11 Commission to record Dr. Rice's testimony further calls into question this Commission's methods in conducting its investigation.
Sixth, we respectfully request that President Bush and Vice President Cheney reconsider their decision to testify together. Their testimony should be separate, in public and under oath so that the Commission can properly comprehend the individual responsibilities and decisions of the President and Vice President. Individual testimonies would provide the American public a much clearer understanding of the Administration’s leadership during a time of transition and crisis.
Finally, the Family Steering Committee continues to oppose the condition agreed to between the White House and the Commission in exchange for Dr. Rice’s public testimony. Information gathered by the ongoing investigation of the 9/11 Commission may warrant future public testimony of other White House officials.
Statement of the Family Steering Committee Regarding Conflicts of Interest and the 9/11 Commission
April 18, 2004
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission feels compelled to address recent comments by the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. President George W. Bush signed the 9/11 Commission into law on November 27, 2002. In its Congressional charge, the Commission was to begin its investigation into the facts surrounding the 9/11 attacks where the Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (“JICI”) ended in order to not duplicate efforts.
In December 2002, the JICI held as one of its 19 Findings and Recommendations that the “evidentiary wall” present between criminal search warrants and FISA warrants—and the field agents lack of full understanding between these two standards of proof, was one example of our nation’s inability to fight terrorism pre-9/11. In short, the “Reno wall” was an item that was fully investigated and ultimately addressed as a Finding by the JICI.
The FSC brings this fact to the attention of the press since Rep. DeLay and Rep. Sennsenbrenner have decided to question Commissioner Jamie Gorelick’s involvement in drafting a memorandum that ratified and raised this evidentiary wall. Commissioner Gorelick’s involvement with the wall is not a new revelation however. In accordance with the Commission’s policy on conflicts of interest, as is the case with all the Commissioners, she has fully recused herself from questioning and debate surrounding issues with which she was personally involved, including discussion on the evidentiary wall.
Two areas not investigated by the JICI include the National Security Council and the Presidential Daily Briefings, the daily intelligence reports written for the President.
While the JICI attempted numerous times to access the minutes of the NSC meetings, the articles contained in the PDBs, certain budgetary information, and to interview National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Joint Inquiry’s dogged requests were wholly refused and/or denied by the White House on separation of powers grounds.
Rep. DeLay insinuates throughout his letter to Governor Kean that commissioners (including Commissioner Gorelick) are acting in contravention to the nation’s best interests. Rep. DeLay decries the “partisanship” and “self-promotion” that he claims threatens the commission’s credibility. Yet one must question Rep. DeLay’s motives in seeking the removal of Commissioner Gorelick.
Interestingly, after eleven months of negotiation with the White House, Jamie Gorelick is the only Commissioner that was given “full” access to relevant highly classified Executive Branch information – including PDBs and NSC notes – regarding our nation’s ability to defend itself against 19 hijackers on the morning of 9/11 – information that was never before examined by any non-Executive Branch investigative entity. The resignation of Ms. Gorelick would cause this information to remain un-investigated and un-addressed by the 9/11 Independent Commission in its Final Report. And, thus, our nation will not gain the benefit of this Executive Branch information in order to carry on the dialogue and debate regarding our ability to effectively and successfully fight the war on terrorism.
The Family Steering Committee was always and continues to be highly concerned with conflicts of interest. We have raised this issue a number of times in our past press releases. We continue to maintain that this Commission’s work and its Final Report must not descend into partisan politics.
The Commission’s work and its Final Report are of the utmost importance. We believe that the Commission’s Final Report will serve as an excellent way to honor the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11, by proving that we can admit to, examine, and learn from our mistakes and failures of the past.
Finally the Commission’s public hearings – with high-ranking officialsunder oath – while not perfect, prove that democracy can, indeed, work and ultimately prevail. Though we acknowledge that the Commission is a creation of Congress, we are just as cognizant of its independent nature; we would ask Rep. DeLay to acknowledge this and ask for him to respect its crucial mission by not distracting it from its important work, which will restore faith and confidence of the American people in our government.
Op-ed Submission to the Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2004
What is a Citizen to Do?
How could 19 middle-eastern men simultaneously hijack 4 commercial airplanes in two hours, crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and murder 3000 innocent people?
With the billions spent each year on defense and intelligence, why did our nation do so little in a defensive posture to mitigate the vast devastation that was brought upon us by these 19 men?
Our research began with every agency and every policy that could possibly shed some light on why the tragedy of 9/11 was not averted. With each revelation and each new understanding, our naïveté waned and the challenges loomed large. The problems were systemic in nature. Changes were needed everywhere. Agencies, 20 years after the Cold War had ended, were still operating in a Cold War posture. Terrorists were not watch-listed. FBI computers were antiquated. Intelligence agents and supervisors failed to analyze and investigate creatively, aggressively, and with curiosity. Congress and the Executive Branch failed to properly share their growing National Security concerns and garner the will of the nation to fight this new war against terrorism. The media was more prone to cover scandal than terrorism.
Our research revealed that numerous indicators throughout our intelligence history illustrated the use, or intended use of planes as missiles. We found field reports, case files and studies, eye witness testimony, intelligence community threat matrices, and Department of Defense mock drills all addressing the "planes as missiles" idea.
In fact, during the summer of 2001, President Bush attended the G-8 summit in Genoa,Italy where specific protections were put into place to ward against an air attack. Moreover, FBI agents testified in the Embassy bombing trial in NYC during the spring of 2001 that al-Qaeda was interested in suicide hijackers flying planes into buildings—buildings like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Finally, we learned that the Olympic games in Atlanta and Salt Lake City had included aerial attacks in their security protocols.
Indeed, most haunting is what we found out about Al-Qaeda and their attempt to attack Atlanta, Georgia during the summer Olympics. Because of the heightened protection and alert status during the Atlanta Games, al-Qaeda got "spooked" and called off their planned attack. And thus began the "what ifs?"
What if the pre-9/11 national security apparatus', agencies and institutions had matched themselves with similar alert levels? What if the 19 hijackers on 9/11 noticed that same type of vigilant security, gotten spooked themselves and delayed their attack by days or even months? More potently, would such a delay have given enough time to our Intelligence Community to discover and/or minimize the damage of the plot?
Could the FBI have had enough time to receive the FISA warrant on Zaccharias Moussaoui? Afterall, the FBI had enough information to meet probable cause for a FISA warrant because French intelligence in August 2001 had handed over a huge file on Moussaoui linking him to terrorist groups. Moreover, given the fact that Moussaoui was attending the same flight school that the FBI had investigated since 1998 because of the many known middle-eastern terrorists training there, maybe the FBI could have applied for and received a simple criminal warrant.
Perhaps, the internal decision in May 2001 by FISA Court Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth that had a "chilling effect" on all FBI surveillance and wiretapping of terrorist organizations-including Al-Qaeda cells in the US, during the spring and summer 2001 could have been lifted or at the very least tempered?
Or maybe the hijackers could have been watch-listed and forbidden to fly on commercial flights? What if the airline pilots were told that hijackers were capable of flying commercial airliners and to not allow anyone into the cockpit-whether or not they were in uniform? What if airport security was told to be on the lookout for possible terrorist suspects and/or contraband such as gas masks, mace, pepper spray, guns and/or knives?
Could the NSA have translated the phone conversations or intercepts of the hijackers, Bin Laden, Bin Laden family members, and other Al-Qaeda operatives that they had in their possession throughout the summer and early fall of 2001? Could the NSA have acted on and/or communicated this information to the FBI, CIA, and National Security Council in time?
Perhaps, FBI Agent David Frasca may have had the time to read the Phoenix memorandum and the Moussaoui information both of which were on his desk by August 2001 and put the two files together?
Could the FBI have had the time to find two of the hijackers, Al-Midhar and Al-hazmi, who were already under investigation for two years by CIA after CIA had conducted surveillance on a terrorist meeting in Malaysia in January 2000? After all, Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi were living in San Diego, listed in the phone book, had bank accounts in their own names, trained at flight schools and resided with a known FBI informant?
Could CIA have found Marwan Al-Shehi? He was Mohammed Atta's roommate and visited the same flight school that Moussaoui was arrested at by the FBI. CIA had the name "Marwan" and a phone number given to them by the German government. Could they have had the time to follow-up with this information?
Could our National Security Council's Principals who first met on September 4, 2001 had more time to hold a second meeting where they could have discussed the threat spikes and foreign government warnings from Russia, Israel, Germany, and Egypt that Al-Qaeda was planning an imminent and spectacular attack on the domestic US? Would our NSC Principals have had the time to harden our homeland security?
Could NORAD have placed fighter jets on shorter alert status, so that our air defense did not arrive too late like it did on 9/11? Perhaps, with over an hour's worth of notice before the attack on the Pentagon, the F-16's could have arrived on time to protect our Department of Defense.
Could we learn from this tragedy so that it would not be repeated? Could our fellow citizens be willing to shed sunlight onto the inadequacies of our government's ability to defend itself against terrorism? Could our elected officials cease the diversionary tactics of "mudslinging" and "name-calling" long enough to allow the facts to be revealed, examined, and fixed? Could the media no longer fall prey to sensational stories and feed the public information that truly informs and educates them about our nation's ability to fight terrorism?
Democracy cannot prosper on blind-faith. To work effectively, democracy's foundation -the people, must be well informed. And, in order to be more informed, more responsive, and more prepared for the challenges ahead, we must continue to ask questions to our leaders; that is our duty as responsible citizens. It is why the 9/11 Independent Commission's investigative work, public hearings, public Final Report and public Recommendations are so vital.
The only way elected officials, agencies and institutions can be held accountable and responsible is if we, the American people, stay vigilant and informed. Before 9/11, the will of the nation to fight terrorism was not present. Post 9/11, the will of this nation exists to confront the battle of terrorism.
But fighting terrorism is not simply an offensive strategy. It is a combined and cumulative process. We need the intelligence agencies to investigate more creatively and aggressively. We need our judicial process to permit the fair and just prosecution of terrorists. We need our foreign policy to issue sanctions to all countries that sponsor terrorism, even if that means our foreign economic dependency suffers. We need our Treasury Department to have the resources to dry up money lines that fund terrorist organizations. We need big business interests to yield to the common good.
Our elected officials who take an oath of office to lead, protect, and serve need to be held responsible and accountable. They must have the courage and curiosity to ask questions, to have established and reliable plans and back-up plans, to demand action, reforms and to welcome personal responsibility.
Most importantly, our elected officials need to remember that they are serving at the will of the people. As our public stewards, it should not be the sanctity of their own political well-being that most consumes their actions and decisions. More correctly, it should be the safety, security and well-being of the people that they serve that should pre-occupy their time.
In a post-9/11 world, it is the responsible preservation of all life that must transcend politics.
Lorie Van Auken
An open letter to former Mayor Giuliani from the Family Steering Committee
5 Times Square
NY, NY 10036
May 22, 2004
Dear Mr. Giuliani,
At the 9/11 Public Hearings you announced that all the anger and blame should be focused on the 19 terrorists who piloted the planes. You went on in your press conferences to state that you understood that the comments from the crowd were due misplaced anger from the grieving process. We respectfully disagree with you on both accounts.
It is true that on September 11th, nineteen terrorists were responsible for murdering nearly 3000 people. But the terrorists could not have succeeded if there had not been loopholes, inefficiency, and lack of collaboration, communication and coordination in our national security system. Something went terribly wrong which allowed the terrorists to launch a surprise attack here in America, using hijacked airplanes. All the factors, which contributed to the death of so many on September 11th, must be identified and corrected. Certainly, the terrorists are at the top of the list, but there is much more to this story and it cannot be swept under the rug, as if it does not exist.
Your statement, " Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us," implies that asking questions about our government’s knowledge, preparedness and response prior to and on 9/11 is somehow wrong. To suggest that an investigation is synonymous with attacking each other is a deliberate misrepresentation of the goals and work of the Commission whose mandate is to tell the full story and make recommendations for correcting the problems.
First and foremost our government is obligated to protect us. That means it must be honest about what went wrong. If our internal security and emergency response problems are not corrected, terrorists may once again succeed in killing many innocent Americans. When the Commission suggests that the emergency response might have operated more efficiently with one command center overseeing the entire operation, or someone posits that many fire fighters might have been saved if their radios had been working properly, that in no way reflects on the heroism we witnessed that terrible day.
Nothing can diminish the valor of the civilians who tried to help those who were injured or trapped, or the heroism of the Police, the Firefighters or the EMS personnel who rushed into the burning buildings to save lives. Thousands of lives were saved by their bravery. The survivors and the families of those they tried to rescue will never forget the sacrifice of those who gave their lives trying to help. All Americans salute the heroes of 9/11 and honor the memory of those who perished.
The families who vented at this last hearing did not do so out of misplaced anger. They did so out of frustration--frustration that significant issues like non-functioning fire fighter radios were not being publicly addressed. To ignore what went wrong will undoubtedly put lives at risk.
We are calling on you, Mayor Giuliani, to once again display the courage and leadership that you exhibited on 9/11. Instead attempting to deflect attention from the flaws in our national security system and concerns about the emergency response, by commenting that only the terrorists were responsible, it would be refreshing and courageous for you and other leaders to publicly acknowledge some of the things that went wrong. Such an acknowledgement would go a long way to restoring trust in our government and faith that our government officials understand that those issues must be corrected if New York and the nation are to be more secure and better able to handle the next attack.
The Family Steering Committee
End Part V