Cheney In The "Commission"

I've transcribed some of the pages having to do with Cheney from Phil Shenon's book, "The Commission". The back cover says, "How Vice President Cheney tried to pressure the Commission to change its assessment of his actions on 9/11, and how he may have tried to cover up his role."

Pages 29-31
Daschle would be out of his job as majority leader in January, when the new Republicans would be sworn in. The GOP already controlled the House. Daschle figured that with Republicans in full control on Capitol Hill, Congress would be out of the business of oversight, especially when it came to September 11 and the performance of the Bush White House in dealing with the threat of al-Qaeda before and after the attacks.

It had become clearer and clearer to Daschle and other Democrats--and to the Washington press corps and even some Republicans--that the White House was hiding something, perhaps many things, about what Bush knew about al-Qaeda threats before 9/11.

To Daschle, that explained why Bush and Cheney had taken such a personal role in the campaign to try to block any outside review of September 11, especially the creation of the commission. Daschle had heard through Trent Lott, his Republican counterpart, that Karl Rove and the White House political office had orchestrated the behind-the-scenes effort to block legislation to create the commission. "It's all Rove," Lott told Daschle.

In January 2002, before Congress had scheduled its first public hearings on pre-9/11 intelligence failures, Cheney called Daschle personally to complain about any public airing of the issues. Cheney's tone with Daschle was polite but threatening. Daschle, who was being interviewed by a Newsweek reporter when the vice president's call came through, was smart enough to allow the reporter to remain in the office to listen to Daschle's end of the conversation. Daschle wanted a witness.

The vice president urged Daschle to shut down any additional public hearings on 9/11, warning him that a public discussion of intelligence errors before the attacks would do damage to the struggle to capture bin Laden and destroy al-Qaeda--and would do political damage to the Democrats as well.

"Mr. Majority Leader, this would be a very dangerous and time-consuming diversion for those of us who are on the front lines of our response today," Cheney said. "We just can't be tied down with the problems that this would present for us. We've got our hands full." Daschle remembered the tone as vintage Cheney" "muffled, kind of under the breath, quiet, measure, very deliberate."

If the Democrats went forward anyway, Cheney said, the White House would portray the Democrats--by daring to investigate what went wrong on 9/11--as undermining the war against terror. That was a potent political threat at a time, four months after the attacks, when Bush was riding as high in opinion polls as he ever would Democrats were facing a difficult midterm election in November 2002 as a result.

"I respectfully disagree with your position, Mr. Vice President," Daschle replied. "It is imperative that we try to find out what happened on September 11 and why."

To Dashle, it was preposterous for the White House to argue that 9/11 should go uninvestigated. He knew that modern American history offered plenty of support for an independent investigation. From Pearl Harbor to the Kennendy assassination to the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, "there's been a review of what happened after every tragedy this nation has experience," Daschle said.

Page 54-55
In January 2003, Graham and the other members of the committee were still the focus of a criminal investigation by the FBI into whether someone on the panel had leaked classified information. A report on CNN on June 19, 2002, revealed the wording of messages sent among al-Qaeda sympathizers in the days and hours before 9/11. The messages ("Tomorrow is zero day," "The match is tomorrow") were intercepted by the National Security Agency but not translated from the original Arabic until after the attacks. The CNN report aired only hours after the messages were shared with Graham's Committee.

The leaks resulted in a fierce White House protest. Vice President Cheney called Graham at home.

"What the hell is going on, Bob?" Cheney asked. "We have tried to be as cooperative as possible, but we cannot tolerate this leakage to the press. If this continues, we will terminate our assistance to the committee." Graham thought Cheney's warning "disingenuous and pompous," but he felt compelled to call in the FBI. Without some sort of leak investigation, Graham thought, the White House would follow through on Cheney's threat and shut down all cooperation.

Page 411-412
The feelings of relief were not universally held in the White House. Dick Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, were outraged by the commission's timeline on Cheney's actions on September 11--and the clear suggestion that Cheney had issued an unconstitutional shoot-down order that morning without Bush's knowledge or approval.

Kean learned about Cheney's outrage a few days before the report's release when he was pulled aside for a phone call. It was Cheney, who made it clear he was angry. He was demanding that the sections be rewritten to remove the insinuation.

"Governor, this is not true, just not fair", Cheney told Kean, according to other commissioners who later heard Kean describe the call. Cheney said he thought it was startling that the commission did not accept the word of the president of the United States and the vice-president. "The president told you, I have told you, that the president issued the order. I was following his directions."

The truth, Kean knew, was that the staff did not believe what Bush and Cheney were saying. Kean ended the call by promising the vice president that he would ask the staff to give the material about the shoot-down another review before publication. But no major changes were made.

To the surprise of some of the commissioners and the staff, there was no similar protest from Cheney or anyone else in the White House over the commission's conclusion that there was no significant alliance between al-Qaeda and Iraq. After the earlier blowup with Cheney over Iraq, the staff had gone back and reviewed everything the commission had in its files about the ties between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. At the end of it, the staff was more convinced than ever that there had been no serious collaboration between the terrorists and the Iraqis, no matter how much the administration wanted to cling to the idea to justify the war.

Cheney, Rumsfeld and Hamilton

Another relationship about which I was not aware until I read The Commission is Lee Hamilton's longtime friendship with Cheney and Rumsfeld. Shenon says Cheney and Rumsfeld "let others in the White House know that Hamilton could be trusted" (p. 177).


"Cheney and Hamilton formed a close bond when Hamilton led the House investigation of Iran-Contra after the arms-for-hostages affair was exposed. Cheney was the ranking Republican. Hamilton had known Rumsfeld even longer. Rumsfeld served in the House from neighboring Illinois from 1962 to 1969…. They were still close friends when Cheney and Rumsfeld returned to power in Washington in 2001…. Hamilton also had a good relationship with Cheney's powerful White House counsel, David Addington, who had worked for Cheney in Congress" (p. 33).

We've discussed Zelikow quite a bit at 911blogger, but the depth of Hamilton's neocon associations was news to me.


Addition... I think did a post on this. Yup...

Mid-1980s: Future 9/11 Commissioner Believes White House Lies about Iran-Contra Affair without Checking
Future 9/11 Commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton (D-IN), at this time chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, fails to properly investigate Iran-Contra allegations. He learns of press reports indicating that the Reagan administration is illegally funneling weapons and money to the anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua, but when the White House denies the story, Hamilton believes it. Hamilton will later acknowledge that he has been gullible, and will say of his political style, “I don’t go for the jugular.” It is during the Iran-Contra investigation that Hamilton becomes friends with Dick Cheney, at this time a Republican congressman. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 33] Cheney is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and so must work closely with Hamilton, including on the Iran-Contra investigation. [PBS, 6/20/2006] Hamilton calls Cheney “Dick” and they will remain friends even after Cheney becomes vice president in 2001 and Hamilton, as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, begins to investigate Cheney’s actions as a part of the Commission’s work. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 33] Hamilton will also fail to properly investigate “October Surprise” allegations (see 1992-January 1993).

1992-January 1993: Future Democratic 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Leads Cover-up of Republican Plot
In 1992, a House of Representatives task force chaired by Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton conducts a ten-month investigation into the “October Surprise” - an alleged Republican plot to delay the release of US hostages held in Iran in 1980 until after that year’s US presidential election. The investigation concludes in 1993 that there is “no credible evidence” of any such plot. But Robert Parry, a journalist writing for the Associated Press and Newsweek, gains access to the stored records of Hamilton’s task force. He finds clear evidence of a major cover up. For instance, William Casey, CIA Director in the early 1980s, was alleged to have been involved in the plot, and Hamilton’s investigators discovered a CIA created index of Casey’s papers made after Casey’s death in 1987. When investigators searches Casey’s possessions, they found all the papers mentioned in the index, except for all the ones relevant to the alleged October Surprise plot. But the disappearance of such evidence was not mentioned in Hamilton’s findings. [Scott, 2007, pp. 101] In addition, an official Russian intelligence report placing Casey in Europe in order to arrange a politically favorable outcome to the hostage crisis arrived in Washington shortly before Hamilton’s task force issued their conclusions, but this Russian information was not mentioned by the task force. [Scott, 2007, pp. 106-107] Hamilton will later be appointed co-chair of the 9/11 Commission (see December 11, 2002).

Why isn't Dick Cheney in prison?