9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey: It Might Take “A Permanent 9/11 Commission” to End the Remaining Mysteries of September 11

Some of us have been writing for years (see this and this) that the 9/11 Commission Report was unreliable because most of the information was based on the statements of tortured detainees. As I wrote in March 2007:

In fact, the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on a third-hand account of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees.

I have also previously written that Senator Leahy’s desire to base a torture investigation on the 9/11 Commission was problematic.

Now, Newsweek is running an essay by Philip Shenon saying the same thing:

The commission appears to have ignored obvious clues throughout 2003 and 2004 that its account of the 9/11 plot and Al Qaeda’s history relied heavily on information obtained from detainees who had been subjected to torture, or something not far from it.

The panel raised no public protest over the CIA’s interrogation methods, even though news reports at the time suggested how brutal those methods were. In fact, the commission demanded that the CIA carry out new rounds of interrogations in 2004 to get answers to its questions.

That has troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report. In intelligence circles, testimony obtained through torture is typically discredited; research shows that people will say anything under threat of intense physical pain.

And yet it is a distinct possibility that Al Qaeda suspects who were the exclusive source of information for long passages of the commission’s report may have been subjected to “enhanced” interrogation techniques, or at least threatened with them, because of the 9/11 Commission….

Information from CIA interrogations of two of the three—KSM and Abu Zubaydah—is cited throughout two key chapters of the panel’s report focusing on the planning and execution of the attacks and on the history of Al Qaeda.

Footnotes in the panel’s report indicate when information was obtained from detainees interrogated by the CIA. An analysis by NBC News found that more than a quarter of the report’s footnotes—441 of some 1,700—referred to detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program, including the trio who were waterboarded.

Commission members note that they repeatedly pressed the Bush White House and CIA for direct access to the detainees, but the administration refused. So the commission forwarded questions to the CIA, whose interrogators posed them on the panel’s behalf.

The commission’s report gave no hint that harsh interrogation methods were used in gathering information, stating that the panel had “no control” over how the CIA did its job; the authors also said they had attempted to corroborate the information “with documents and statements of others.”

But how could the commission corroborate information known only to a handful of people in a shadowy terrorist network, most of whom were either dead or still at large?

Former senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Democrat on the commission, told me last year he had long feared that the investigation depended too heavily on the accounts of Al Qaeda detainees who were physically coerced into talking. …

Kerrey said it might take “a permanent 9/11 commission” to end the remaining mysteries of September 11. Those now calling for more 9/11-style panels would be wise to heed his words.

Thank you to Newsweek for addressing this important issue.

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