Secrecy News covers The Commission; links to email exchange with Philip Zelikow

From Secrecy News:


"Senior investigators on the 9/11 Commission believed their work was
being manipulated by the executive director to minimize criticism of
the Bush Administration," according to a new book on the Commission.

"Investigative staffers at the Commission believe [executive director]
Philip Zelikow repeatedly sought to minimize the administration's
intelligence failures in the months leading up to 9/11, which had the
effect of helping to ensure President Bush's re-election in 2004," no

That is the sensational thesis of "The Commission: The Uncensored
History of the 9/11 Investigation" by New York Times reporter Philip

The claim was immediately disputed by the former Commissioners and by
former staff.

"The author is mistaken in his criticism of the role of Executive
Director Philip Zelikow. The proper standard for judgment is the
quality of the report, and there is no basis for the allegations of
bias he asserts," according to a February 8 statement issued jointly by
the Commissioners (except White House counsel Fred Fielding).

Michael Hurley, a Commission staff member who led the team on
counterterrorism policy, concurred in an email message to Secrecy News.

"The Shenon book depicts Philip Zelikow as a manager who bullied the
9/11 Commission staff. He didn't bully the staff. Zelikow assembled a
stellar group of independent-minded professionals, many of whom had
substantial and distinguished careers in their fields. They were not
the sort who could be bullied or manipulated," said Mr. Hurley, a
former CIA operations officer who served in Afghanistan after September

"No piece of evidence, no matter how damning to Bush, Rice, or Richard
Clarke got left on the cutting room floor," he added.

Mr. Shenon's engaging book provides new details on the efforts of
former national security adviser Sandy Berger to destroy documents at
the National Archive; the discovery of a highly classified Memorandum
of Notification authorizing the killing of Osama bin Laden that was
signed by President Clinton on December 24, 1998 then modified a few
months later for reasons that remain obscure; John Ashcroft's attempt
to embarrass Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, which had the unintended
effect of unifying the Commission; and lots of interesting, gossipy
details about the internal dynamics of the Commission, some of which,
as noted, have been disputed.

Last week, Mr. Shenon posted his extensive email exchanges with Mr.
Zelikow on the book's web site ( Mr.
Zelikow also released almost the identical material, in slightly
different format and with a bit of material not included by Mr. Shenon
(such as a memo sent to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post regarding
a paper by Paul Pillar). The Zelikow release is here:

In either version, Zelikow's detailed messages, which are neither
defensive nor vindictive, tend to deflate the more breathless
allegations of his critics, and add a dimension of understanding to the
Commission report and its public reception.

"One of the most neglected observations in the report was in our
section comparing the Millenium period (end 1999) with the 'summer of
threat' in 2001," Mr. Zelikow wrote to Mr. Shenon on September 20, 2007
in a passage that was not included in the book.

"We made the point there that the main driver in all the attention in
the earlier period was the massive publicity surrounding the Ressam
arrest. [Ahmed Ressam was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles
International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999.] We contrasted that with
the muffling secrecy of Summer 2001."

"Imagine what might have happened if the Moussaoui arrest had gotten
the kind of publicity and extended coverage that accompanied the Ressam
arrest. We had evidence from [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] that, had he known
of the Moussaoui arrest, he might have cancelled the operation," Mr.
Zelikow wrote.