Zelikow’s ‘What Do I Do Now?’ Memo Found

Posted at the History Commons Groups
by Kevin Fenton

We have found the famous “What Do I Do Now?” memo drafted by 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow on March 2, 2003. The memo advised staffers newly hired by the commission what they should do after starting work.

The memo was found by Erik at the National Archives and uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd.

Philip Shenon’s The Commission highlighted the memo and one controversial section in particular. The section says:

Interactions with commissioners can be helpful to you and them. If you are contacted by a commissioner with questions, please contact Chris [Kojm, Zelikow’s deputy] or me. Consulting with the Chair and Vice-Chair, we will be sure that the appropriate members of the Commission staff are responsive.

Shenon called this provision, channelling contacts between the staff and the commissioners through Zelikow and his deputy, “unusual” and “worrying to the staff.” He added:

It occurred to several of the staff members, especially those with experience on other federal commissions, that Zelikow was trying to cut off their contact with the people they really worked for–the commissioners. Democratic commissioner Jamie Gorelick saw a copy of Zelikow’s memo and was furious. Through an arrangement with her law firm, she intended to spend nearly half of her work week on commission business, and she was not going to have Zelikow telling the staff that they could not speak freely with her–that they had to wait to get his permission to return her phone calls. She called [Commission Chairman Tom] Kean and [Commission Vice Chairman Lee] >Hamilton.

“This is totally unacceptable,” she told them. “I’m going to have free access to the staff.”

[Commissioner] Max Cleland said he was worried from the start that Zelikow was trying to “stovepipe” the investigation. It was ironic, said Cleland; it seemed Zelikow was going to duplicate just the sort of information bottlenecks that had plagued the FBI and the CIA and made them unable to “connect the dots” before September 11.

“It violates the whole spirit of an open look at what the hell happened on 9/11,” he said.

Zelikow was forced to rescind that portion of the memo; the commission’s staff would be permitted to talk to the commissioners.

That’s from pages 84-85 of Shenon’s book.

It was certainly good to find the memo after hearing about it. Naturally, we’ll continue looking for other stuff.

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