The head of a U.S. commission probing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington says several federal agencies are endangering the investigation by failing to provide requested documents in a timely manner.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks is charged with detailing the circumstances surrounding the events of September 11. It is also to examine U.S. preparedness at the time and how the nation responded to the attacks. Formed in November of last year, the commission has until May, 2004 to complete its findings.
The chairman, former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, says the commission's task is "monumental." Addressing reporters in Washington Tuesday, Mr. Kean said time is running out for the body to perform its work, and that several federal agencies have been slow to provide critical documents the commission has requested.
"Some agencies have done pretty well; some agencies have become problems," he said. "The Department of Defense is slow. There are a couple of other agencies that are not responding yet in the way we want them to. And what we are pointing out today is that we cannot do the task mandated to us without those documents. Everyone has to be on board. And when we make a request, those requests have to be listened to in a timely manner."
The former governor added that one of his purposes in speaking to the news media was to exert pressure on all federal agencies to cooperate as fully, and as quickly, as possible. Mr. Kean also said he regrets that federal agencies are sending representatives to monitor interviews conducted with their personnel.
Asked by a reporter if he thought the commission was encountering resistance so as to prevent the disclosure of possibly damaging or embarrassing information, Mr. Kean said no - that it is simply a matter of agencies devoting insufficient resources to comply with the commission's requests.
"I do not think anybody expected the voluminous nature of the requests we put in," he said. "We are requesting documents no one has requested before. We are asking to see things that these agencies did not anticipate."
The commission's vice chairman, former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, added that he does not believe the Bush administration is, as he put it, "stonewalling" the investigation. Both he and Mr. Kean said they have no intention of subpoenaing either President Bush or former President Clinton for testimony.