WASHINGTON – The federal commission studying the Sept. 11 terror attacks erred in requesting only pieces of secret presidential intelligence briefings rather than entire documents, a member said Friday.
The commission and the White House reached a compromise this week that headed off a possible subpoena by the commission. It gives the panel restricted access to daily written intelligence assessments — presidential daily briefs (search), or PDBs — related to terrorism and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We should be requesting the entire PDB, not an article from the PDB," said former Rep. Tim Roemer (search), D-Ind. "How can you get the context of how Al Qaeda or Afghanistan is being prioritized in 10 or 12 pages when you only are seeing two paragraphs?"
Philip Zelikow, executive director of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (search), said the bipartisan panel asked specifically for pieces of the daily briefings that dealt with subjects such as terrorism, Al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden, the Saudi-born fugitive leader of the terror network.
Other sections, such as those dealing with intelligence on topics and countries not related to terror threats, intentionally were left out of the request, Zelikow said.
"We asked for everything we wanted, and the White House has discovered hundreds of responsive PDB articles, and we are seeing all of them," Zelikow said. "None of those articles are being edited. We're seeing everything we asked to see. And our request was never the subject of negotiation."
Zelikow said all the commissioners were aware of the request to the White House and did not object to its scope.
Roemer and one other commissioner, former Sen. Max Cleland (search), D-Ga., have said the agreement is too restrictive in other ways. For instance, only some of the 10 commissioners will be allowed to examine classified intelligence documents, and their notes will be subject to White House review.
The three other Democrats on the panel supported the agreement.
Asked about the complaints, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday that the commissioners are getting everything they requested.