9/11 Commission Finds Its Spine

Another story buried inside the national edition of the Times is Commission on 9/11 Attacks Issues Subpoena to the F.A.A. Here's the key part:

In a statement, the 10-member commission said it learned within the last few days that “various tapes, statements, interview reports and agency self-assessments highly material to our inquiry inexplicably had not been included” in the materials from the aviation agency. “It is clear that the F.A.A.'s delay has significantly impeded the progress of our investigation,” the statement said.

Government officials with knowledge of the commission's work said the panel and its staff were particularly alarmed by the discovery that they had not been provided with detailed transcripts and other information about communications on Sept. 11 between the the F.A.A. and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad, the unit of the Pentagon that is responsible for defending American air space.

I've argued before that the 9/11 commission is a possible sleeper issue of serious magnitude. This latest develpment (cover-up?) is consistent with that hypothesis.

I was particularly struck by the illogic of the Republican chair's attempt to explain why they have not been issuing subpoenas until now:

The bill creating the commission provided the panel with subpoena power, although its chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, had repeatedly said that he was hesitant to use it, in part because of the delays that it might cause.

Well, that didn't work real well, did it?

The bipartisan commission also warned that it was considering subpoenas for material from other executive branch agencies and that the resulting delays could force it to extend its investigation beyond May, when it is supposed to complete its work.

The possibility of an extension is worrying to the Bush administration, since it could mean the public release of a potentially embarrassing report in the heat of next year's presidential campaign.

“Once this issue came to light —just in the past few days — the F.A.A. provided the commission with dozens of boxes and materials that its representatives now claim satisfy our request, and they pledged the F.A.A.'s full cooperation,” the panel said. “This disturbing development at one agency has led the commission to re-examine its general policy of relying on document requests rather than subpoenas.”

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