Magazine article Newsweek

The White House: A New Fight over Secret 9/11 Docs

Magazine article Newsweek

The White House: A New Fight over Secret 9/11 Docs

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Isikoff

The White House is facing a new battle with the federal panel investigating 9/11. To mollify the panel chair, former governor Thomas Kean, President George W. Bush last week reversed course and agreed to a two-month extension that is supposed to ensure a final 9/11 report by July. But that might not be enough. Commission sources tell NEWSWEEK that panel members are fed up with what one calls "maddening" restrictions by White House lawyers on their access to key documents. Unless the panel gets to see the docs, the report "will not withstand the laugh test," a commission official says. The panel is threatening to force a showdown soon--by voting to subpoena the White House.

The documents at the heart of the dispute are the so-called presidential daily briefs, or PDBs--the daily intelligence brief given to Bush by a senior intelligence official, usually the CIA director or his deputy. White House lawyers have guarded the documents as the "crown jewels" of executive privilege. But last year Kean and other commissioners complained they couldn't write their report without seeing exactly what Bush, and Bill Clinton before him, had been told about the threat of Al Qaeda. The White House then agreed to a complex deal that would allow four panel officials to review the PDBs and then brief the full 10-member panel. But the arrangement hasn't stopped the wrangling. The four-member team asked to look at 360 PDBs dating back to 1998; White House counsel Alberto Gonzales permitted them to see just 24, arguing that only those that specifically mentioned possible domestic attacks or airplane hijackings were relevant. …

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