This post lists a set of documents related to the 9/11 Commission’s battle over document access with the White House. The documents have been posted at the History Commons site at Scribd. I am reading through them gradually and highlighting interesting information. This post will be updated continuously.
(-) 2-page undated 9/11 Commission memo from Mike Hurley to Warren Bass about small changes to a document request for the NSC/White House.
(-) A November 2003 e-mail from 9/11 Commission staffer Warren Bass complaining about documents withheld from the commission by the White House. The documents date from the Clinton presidency, some concern the bombing of the USS Cole, and are being withheld under executive privilege.
(-) An October 2003 e-mail from 9/11 Commission staffer Warren Bass about the White House withholding notes he had taken about documents generated by the National Security Council and other agencies.
(-) Document request no. 4 submitted in September 2003 by the 9/11 Commission to the White House. Amongst other things it asks for documents concerning high-level meetings about al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban, as well as documents related to the Saudi flights shortly after 9/11.
(-) 9/11 Commission e-mail from October 2003 written by Warren Bass about documents that the commission should ask the White House for: presidential daily brief items about al-Qaeda threats abroad and documents moving between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the president.
(-) 9/11 Commission e-mail from October 2003 about limits on interviews of high-level officials. Witnesses are to be notified in advance of questions, the commission cannot ask for a blow-by-blow account of meetings, etc.
(-) A November 2003 letter from White House lawyer Thomas Monheim to the 9/11 Commission setting out the conditions for interviews of White House staff. Monheim says WH officials will not be placed under oath, imposes a time limit, says the WH will control whether a recording is made, says the interviews cannot be referred to as “interviews,” etc.
(-) A November 2003 letter from White House lawyer Thomas Monheim to the 9/11 Commission saying the White House will retain 17 of 105 pages of notes taken by staffer Warren Bass about White House issues. Monheim argues that the notes violate an agreement concluded by the Commission and White House.
(-) A March 2004 e-mail from 9/11 Commission staffer Warren Bass saying that NSC documents are not being produced in a timely manner for the commission. Bass also complains that notes he has taken on White House documents are being withheld, despite a previous agreement to provide them, and accuses the administration of “moving the goal posts.”
(-) Two August 2003 e-mails from 9/11 Commission staffers disussing proposed restrictions on interviews of top policy officials proposed by the White House. Under the proposed restrictions, witnesses cannot be asked to characterise the positions of other participants at meetings, to give blow-by-blow accounts of meetings or quote what was said. Neither can witnesses be asked about the details of conversations they had with other White House officials.
In the other e-mail, commission staffer Warren Bass says that these restrictions are impractical, as the commission will need access to the details, and worries that government minders may delay questioning.
(-) Internal 9/11 Commission e-mail from staffer Warren Bass calling a claim by White House press spokesman Scott McClellan that the administration was co-operating fully “flatly untrue”
(-) A list of documents provided to the 9/11 Commission by the White House as of December 17, 2003.
(-) E-mail from 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow to the White House asking for less redactions in 4 NSC documents.
(-) A summary of the dispute between the 9/11 Commission and the White House about access by the commission to Presidential Daily Briefs (PDBs). It contains a chronology up to early November 2003, options on how to proceed and draft public statements related to the options.
One option is for a staff member to read a group of PDB items initially denied to the commissioners to see if there is anything really important there the commission must know. In this version the staffer would be Chris Kojm, but in the event this job was performed by Philip Zelikow, the commission’s executive director.
(-) A letter from 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey to 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton about the deal the 9/11 Commission reached with the White House to get limited access to Presidential Daily Briefs (PDBs). Kerrey fears the access is too limited and will compromise the commission’s ability to do it job completely.
(-) A White House memo sent one week before the publication of the 9/11 Commission report asking for changes to it.
(-) An e-mail from 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow from July 2003 about regulations on the use of quotations in notes taken by commission staffers reviewing White House documents.
(-) A memo sent from the 9/11 Commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow and Counsel Daniel Marcus to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales asking for some White House memos. The memos were mostly to Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger from his counterterrorism staff, in particular counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. They concern terrorist finance, al-Qaeda’s links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the embassy and Cole bombings and other topics.
It appears Gonzales has been withholding the memos from the commission under a claim of executive privilege, as they were subsequently forwarded in some form to President Clinton.
(-) A repeat request from the 9/11 Commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow and Counsel Daniel Marcus to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales for documents it has not yet received. The documents concern principals’ and deputies’ meetings during the Clinton era.
(-) Letter from White House lawyer Thomas Monheim in August 2003 to the 9/11 Commission about the commission’s access to its own notes. Monheim says the commission has taken notes about White House documents that breach agreed rules, but can have most of the notes anyway.
The masterlist for all documents the History Commons has obtained and is analysing can be found here.