Cheney, Rumsfeld Told Investigators To Whitewash 9-11*
By Pat Shannan
A respected human rights organization has unearthed an official document dating to the Bush administration, which proves that powerful figures in the White House actively discouraged the official panel set up to investigate the 9-11 attacks from looking too deeply into the attack.
In March, through a FOIA request, the ACLU obtained 42 pages of illuminating documents exposing further the Bush administration’s duplicity regarding the facts of the 9-11 attacks, Guantanamo detainees and other matters. Buried on page 26 of these is a letter revealing that senior Bush administration officials sternly cautioned the 9-11 Commission against probing too deeply into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The notification came in a letter dated Jan. 16, 2004 that was addressed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and CIA Director George J. Tenet. The key document indicates once more the behind-the-scenes charade that went on—and continues to go on—with those high-ranking officials attempting to cover-up the facts and truth of the 9-11 attacks. The ACLU described it as a fax sent by David Addington, then-counsel to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
In the message, the officials denied the bipartisan commission’s request to question terrorist detainees, informing its two senior-most members that doing so would “cross a line” and obstruct the administration’s ability to protect the nation.
“In response to the commission’s expansive requests for access to secrets, the executive branch has provided such access in full cooperation,” the letter read. “There is, however, a line that the commission should not cross—the line separating the commission’s proper inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks from interference with the government’s ability to safeguard the national security, including protection of Americans from future terrorist attacks.”
The 9-11 Commission, officially called the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, was formed by President Bush in November 2002 “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks” and to offer recommendations for preventing future attacks.
“The commission staff’s proposed participation in questioning of detainees would cross that line,” the letter continued. “As the officers of the United States responsible for the law enforcement, defense and intelligence functions of the government, we urge your commission not to further pursue the proposed request to participate in the questioning of detainees.”
The letter was obviously prompted by correspondence from the commission two days earlier informing Rumsfeld and Tenet that the commission was zeroing in on seven of more than 100 suspects interviewed by the CIA in order to “form an independent evaluation of the credibility of the suspects’ statements.”
The targeting of these “seven core conspirators,” named along with the others in a previous letter, apparently frightened Rumsfeld and Tenet into worrying that the 9-11 Commission might learn more than they were supposed to know about these interrogations.
Some speculated that this was an attempt by the Bush administration to ensure its torture of detainees, which has since been widely documented, remained secret.
Court watcher and political observer Marcy Wheeler wrote, “Whoever made these annotations appears to have been most worried that commission staff members could make independent judgments about the detainees and the interrogations.” The official didn’t want anyone to “independently evaluate the interrogations conducted in the torture program.”
Eventually, the commission’s co-chairs harshly criticized the administration for having purportedly destroyed tapes of its interrogations with terror suspects. 9-11 Commission members Thomas Kean and Lee H. Hamilton wrote that although President George W. Bush had ordered all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the probe, “recent revelations that the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of al 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 CIA—or the White House—of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to al 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.”