WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday expressed serious concern that the Administration may be impeding the work of the independent commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. While praising the efforts made by the bipartisan commission so far, Lieberman said that the Administration – particularly the FBI, CIA, and the Departments of Justice and Defense – may be using delaying tactics in an attempt to run out the clock on the commission, which has a reporting deadline of May 27, 2004.
“This Administration has opposed at every turn the creation of an independent commission to investigate the tragedy of September 11th,” Lieberman said. “I am extremely concerned that the Administration’s opposition has now taken another form. By delaying its response to the Commission’s information requests, the Administration may now be hoping to run out the clock. “The Commission cannot do its job without help from the White House to ensure the agencies provide the requested documents within the next few weeks. The President must deliver on his pledge to cooperate fully with the Commission. To date, that hasn’t happened.” All Commission requests for information are funneled through a single contact, an adviser for Attorney General Ashcroft. Past inquiries, such as the Congressional intelligence committees’ inquiry into September 11, sent their requests directly to the relevant agency. The Administration’s creation of a single point of contact could effectively create a bottleneck, slowing down the process. It also would allow the Administration to slow the process at will. In a story published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett hinted that the Administration intends to choke off the flow of information to get its way on disputes with the independent commission. Mr. Bartlett said, “Obviously until an agreement is reached in particular areas no one is going to produce anything in particular.”