Sept. 11 Panel Chairman: Gov't Cooperation Improving
MADISON, N.J. – Cooperation from government agencies has improved markedly in the weeks since an independent commission on Sept. 11 went public with concerns about roadblocks, the panel's chairman said Thursday.
But Thomas H. Kean (search) said the bipartisan panel remained in "very sensitive negotiations" with the White House over access to some documents.
"I can tell you we're a lot better off," Kean said in an interview at Drew University (search), where he is president. "Some agencies that were not performing particularly well at that date are now performing well. We have a flood of documents into the office."
Kean, a Republican former governor of New Jersey, and the panel's leading Democrat, former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton (search), delivered a July 8 status report critical of the level of cooperation the panel was getting from some federal agencies -- particularly the Defense and Justice departments.
Kean said the panel still has problems with some government offices, which he will name in September unless cooperation improves.
The commission continues to receive transcripts of interviews with terror suspects being held at a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is reviewing National Security Council (search) documents that were not available to the congressional committee that studied intelligence failings leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
As negotiations continue, the Bush administration has not flatly turned down any request, Kean said. But commission members can view some key documents only at the White House, and cannot copy long passages into their notes.
The 10-member commission has the power to subpoena information, but Kean said it has not done so and he would prefer not to.
The commission's report on the Sept. 11 attacks, due in May, will be subject to a review by government officials and therefore could have some sections blacked out, as was the case with a recent report by congressional intelligence committees.
But Kean said, "We're going to do everything in our power to prevent that. I believe very strongly that this is a public report, not only on 9/11 but on the best recommendations we could make to make the American people safe. You don't want any of that redacted."