By Stephen C. Webster
May 13, 2009
Much of the material cited in the 9/11 Commission’s findings was derived from terror war detainees during brutal CIA interrogations authorized by the Bush administration, according to a Wednesday report.
“More than one-quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Report refer to CIA interrogations of al Qaeda operatives subjected to the now-controversial interrogation techniques,” writes former NBC producer Robert Windrem in The Daily Beast. “In fact, information derived from the interrogations was central to the 9/11 Report’s most critical chapters, those on the planning and execution of the attacks.”
“… [Information] derived from the interrogations is central to the Report’s most critical chapters, those on the planning and execution of the attacks,” reported NBC. “The analysis also shows – and agency and commission staffers concur – there was a separate, second round of interrogations in early 2004, done specifically to answer new questions from the Commission.
“9/11 Commission staffers say they ‘guessed’ but did not know for certain that harsh techniques had been used, and they were concerned that the techniques had affected the operatives’ credibility. At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being ‘tortured.’ The claims came during their hearings last spring at the U.S. military facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”
“Commission executive director Philip Zelikow (later counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) admitted, ‘We were not aware, but we guessed, that things like that were going on. We were wary…we tried to find different sources to enhance our credibility,'” Windrem continued. “(Zelikow testified before the Senate on Wednesday, May 13, that he had argued in a 2005 memo that some of the tactics used on suspected terrorists violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.)”
He adds: “At least four operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being ‘tortured.’ Those claims came during their hearings in the spring of 2007 at the U.S. military facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”
Philip Zelikow, a former colleague of then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, was appointed executive director of the 9/11 Commission despite his close ties to the Bush White House, and he remained in regular contact with Rove while overseeing the commission, according to New York Times reporter Philip Shenon’s new book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation.
Shenon, who led the Times coverage of the 9/11 Commission and still writes for the paper, based his book on myriad interviews with staffers and members of the commission, according to Holland. In addition to his ties to Rice and Rove, Zelikow had been the “architect” of a plan to demote Clinton-era counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, who sounded the alarm about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks they perpetrated.
Zelikow “had laid the groundwork for much of what went wrong at the White House in the weeks and months before September 11. Would he want people to know that?” Shenon writes, according to Holland’s summary.
Shenon also reports that Zelikow received at least two calls from Rove while serving as 9/11 Commission executive director, and he made numerous calls to the White House, Holland says.
Zelikow has not denied speaking to Rove, but he apparently claimed their conversations involved his old job as director of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.
9/11 Commission members Thomas Kean and Lee H. Hamilton wrote that although US President George W. Bush had ordered all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the probe, “recent revelations that the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot.”
“Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.”
They continued: “There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the CIA — or the White House — of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot.
“Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations,” Kean and Hamilton wrote.
They said the panel made repeated, detailed requests to the spy agency in 2003 and 2004 for information about the interrogation of members of the Islamic extremist network but were never notified about the existence of the tapes.
The CIA has since revealed that in 2005 it destroyed videotapes of prisoners being tortured.
“I’m not a lawyer and I’m not sure if they broke the law or not but what they did do, I think, is try to impede our investigation,” said Kean. “Because we asked for…anything to do with those detainees, because they were the ones who knew most about the plot of 9/11 and that was our mandate.”
He continued: “We asked for every single thing that they had, and then my vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, looked the director of the CIA in the face and said, ‘look, even if we haven’t asked for something, if it’s pertinent to our investigation, make it available to us.’ And our staff asked again and again of their staff and the tapes were not given to us. So there was no question.”
In a telephone survey of 1200 individuals, just 47% agreed that “the 9/11 attacks were thoroughly investigated and that any speculation about US government involvement is nonsense.” Almost as many, 45%, indicated they were more likely to agree “that so many unanswered questions about 9/11 remain that Congress or an International Tribunal should re-investigate the attacks, including whether any US government officials consciously allowed or helped facilitate their success.”
A number of widows of the victims of attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 said the 9/11 Commission was a failure for not addressing all the concerns and questions about the day’s events. They have called for a new, independent commission to probe the real history of that day.