WASHINGTON – The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks has made sweeping requests for documents from the Bush administration and White House that go beyond the information provided during Congress' review, officials disclosed Wednesday.
A spokesman for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (search) said the commission expects from its early discussions with the administration that the requests it made over the last two weeks will be met without any presidential claims of executive privilege.
"We have made a substantial request for documents. We didn't issue subpoenas. We made an ordinary request. And we don't anticipate any resistance," spokesman Al Felzenberg said.
The requests included documents from the White House, which did not provide all the information that was requested last year by a joint congressional panel that investigated intelligence lapses before the attacks.
Eleanor Hill, the staff directory for the earlier congressional inquiry, said Wednesday she was reluctant to quantify how much information Congress received from the White House, but noted the National Security Council (search) considered some of the materials requested by her committee were "within the scope of inquiry and some were not."
The Bush administration has made clear in prior investigations unrelated to terrorism that it intends to protect executive privilege, the doctrine that a president is entitled to confidential advice from his aides that he can keep from congressional or judicial bodies.
One of the new terror commission members, former Indiana congressman Tim Roemer, recently raised concerns about his inability to see some transcripts of closed hearings from the congressional inquiry.
But Felzenberg said that issue was resolved and "we have no reason to believe" executive privilege is going to be invoked to deny the current document requests.
Administration officials stopped short of committing to providing everything the commission seeks.
"The president strongly supports the commission and wants it to be successful," White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee said. "We will continue to work closely with the commission in response to their requests."
She declined to say whether the administration would turn over every document the commission asked for.
Officials at the CIA (search), one of the focal points of the earlier congressional hearings, are cooperating with the requests. "We have been fully cooperating with the commission and will continue to do so," agency spokesman Tom Crispell said.
Felzenberg said it was impossible to quantify the number of documents the commission expected to receive in the coming days from the White House and other federal agencies except to say it was "very substantial and throughout the government."
The commission already has access to the information gathered by Congress and the new information sought from the administration is significantly broader, reflecting the commission's mission to go beyond Congress and examine issues like aviation safety, terrorist financing and crisis response.
"We have a much more encompassing mandate," Felzenberg said. "The search has gone throughout the government because it is a lot broader."
The 10-member bipartisan commission, led former New Jersey Republican Gov. Thomas Kean, was named last year by Congress and the White House to pick up where Congress left off in examining the government's pre-Sept. 11 failures and ensuring they are not repeated in the future.
It is expected to issue its findings by next May, and has already held one hearing on aviation security.