WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Friday won a hard-fought extension for the commission investigating the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Lieberman and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., authors of the original legislation that created the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, prevailed upon the House and Senate to approve a two-month extension for the commission so it can complete its inquiry, with another 30 days before it goes out of business.
The commission’s reporting deadline would be extended from May 27 to July 27 and the commission would have until the end of August to conclude its activities, including testifying to Congress and disseminating the final report.
“Given the horror of what happened on September 11th, it was incumbent upon us to provide the commission with the time it needed so that we might learn from the government’s mistakes, plug the holes in our domestic defenses, and prevent something like this from every happening again,” Lieberman said. “With this additional time, I hope the commission produces a report that the families of September 11th victims – and the rest of American – can have faith in.”
The commission asked for a two-month extension last month and the Bush Administration said it supported the request. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., however, had objected. Hastert conceded his position late Friday and agreed to the extension in a letter to the commission.
For more than a year, the commission has been laboring under extremely difficult circumstances, including a delayed start-up, a less than cooperative White House, and a short time frame to conduct a wide-ranging investigation.
The commission was forced to subpoena agencies to get all the information it needed. And it has engaged in months of negotiations to gain access to crucial documents, and to secure interviews with top officials.
The commissioners only recently won access to the most important White House intelligence briefing materials, and had to accept an unwieldy and time-consuming process for reviewing those documents.