NEW YORK – Citing privacy of Sept. 11 victims, the mayor's office vowed to fight a federal commission's subpoena seeking documents that detail the city's response at the World Trade Center (search).
Ed Skyler, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search), also accused the commission of "trying to distract the public" and said it should focus on learning "how this savage terrorist attack was planned and executed without any warning -- so that we never again have to endure such a tragedy."
The commission, which is investigating the nation's preparedness before the 2001 attacks and its response to them, said Thursday it wants tapes and transcripts of 911 calls as well as internal firefighter interviews conducted afterward.
The 10-member bipartisan panel, formed by Congress and led by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, said the 911 calls in particular are "critical to understanding the interaction between members of the public and the city" the day of the attacks.
The panel, which has a May deadline to report its findings an make recommendations for guarding against similar disasters, said it requested the material more than four months ago and is running out of time.
"The city's failure to produce these important documents has significantly impeded the commission's investigation," the panel said a statement.
Skyler said the city will fight the subpoena. "It will take a court order to make the city violate the privacy of those we lost and those who responded to that horrific event," he said.
The mayor's office has argued against releasing city 911 calls from the day terrorists piloted planes into the twin towers, saying victims' last words should be confidential.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (search), the owner of the trade center, in August released about 2,000 pages of transcripts of radio transmissions and calls to its police force on the morning of the attack. The authority had tried to back out of its agreement with The New York Times to release the transcripts, but a New Jersey judge rejected the attempt. News organizations have also tried to get the city records released.
Also Thursday, the commission outlined details of an agreement it reached last week with the Bush administration to gain access to parts of secret presidential intelligence briefings. The commission had threatened to subpoena the White House before last week's agreement.
The commission said it will receive access to years of material from the president's daily brief pertaining to the panel's probe, including material "involving threats to the U.S. homeland."
The group's executive director and three commissioners will take notes from the intelligence briefings and prepare a summary for the rest of the commission. That summary is subject to White House review.
Commissioner Tim Roemer criticized the arrangement and said the commission should consider issuing a subpoena for more information. "There are too many restrictions, too much power by the White House, and too few commissioners seeing it," he said.
Commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton -- like Roemer a former Democratic representative from Indiana -- said the panel would have preferred unrestricted access, but added that without the compromise, "We would have had no access."