Sounds of Silence

November 2003
New Republic;11/10/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 19, p7
Last December, when President Bush named Tom Kean, the mild-mannered Republican former governor of New Jersey, to lead the commission investigating the September 11 attacks, critics scoffed that Kean would be an administration patsy. But the White House's resistance to releasing crucial information about the attacks has stirred him to anger. Kean's not the only one who's upset. Other Republican members of the committee, including former Senator Slade Gorton, a stalwart conservative, have echoed his complaints. Any lack of cooperation from the White House is troubling, but one key point of contention is especially disturbing: whether the commission will have access to daily intelligence briefings given to the president in the weeks before September 11, 2001. Particularly in light of revelations that at least one of these reports indicated that Al Qaeda was planning to hijack U.S. airliners, these briefings are clearly relevant. But the White House is blocking the commission from seeing the briefings. The administration claims they contain sensitive information that, if made public, could compromise national security.The other key White House argument is that the release of past daily intelligence briefings will distort future ones. While there may be theoretical merit to this argument, it is certainly less compelling than the need to fully account for a terrorist catastrophe and prevent another one. Surely the White House realizes that the perception of a cover-up is more politically damaging than turning over a few intelligence reports. Unless, of course, it really does have something scandalous to hide.


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