Published January 13, 2015
Delving deeper than Congress' inquiry, the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks has made far-reaching requests for documents from the Bush administration and does not expect President Bush to invoke executive privilege, officials say.
A spokesman for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (search) said Wednesday the requests for documents were broader than those last year of congressional investigators.
"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," commission 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 director 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 that 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 may keep from congressional or judicial bodies.
One of the new terror commission members, former Rep. Tim Roemer (search), D-Ind., 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.
Richard Ben-Veniste, one of the bipartisan commission's members, said he does not anticipate problems. "The early indications are that the administration is acting consistent with the president's pledge to fully cooperate," he said.
Felzenberg said it was impossible to say how many 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 commission, led by former New Jersey Republican Gov. Thomas Kean (search), 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.