9/11 panel to complete report soon
WASHINGTON – Working in secret, the Sept. 11 commission is finishing a final report that several members believe will be done by week’s end and have unanimous support.
The report’s factual findings, which are virtually complete, will in some respects echo last week’s Senate Intelligence Committee report by harshly criticizing the FBI and CIA for poor intelligence-gathering that many members believe could have otherwise prevented the attacks.
It also will stand by the finding in its preliminary staff report last month that said al-Qaida had only limited contact with Iraq before the terrorist attacks, commissioners say. Strong ties was one of the justifications the Bush administration gave for going to war with Iraq.
“We have a firm and resolute conclusion on this,” Democratic commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former representative from Indiana, said in a recent interview. “We have not found cooperation or collaboration, in general terms and specific instances, between al Qaida and Iraq.”
The endorsement of all 10 commissioners is important if the findings and recommendations for improvements are to avoid charges of partisanship in a presidential election year. The panel meets this week to finalize recommendations, which commissioners say will call for an overhaul of the nation’s intelligence agencies.
“They are all taking their broader responsibility seriously,” said Norm Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “They know this is not about scoring political points in the heart of a campaign but about making sure the attacks don’t happen again.”
A report without any dissenters would be an accomplishment given the charges of partisanship that surfaced during public hearings featuring officials such as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft and former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke.
Last month, former Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and several other commissioners on the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats said unanimity might not be possible. The meetings since then have changed his mind.
“We’ve had a good personal relationship in our internal deliberations, with no traces of partisanship,” Gorton said.
Added Democratic commissioner Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration: “We have a lot of consensus.”