Pelosi Blasts 9/11 Report’s Missing Info, But Goss Says Blank Pages ‘Will Be Filled Out’

Posted July 24, 2003 at 3:48pm

Democrats jumped on the Bush administration for withholding information while Republicans tempered their criticism as Congress’ joint inquiry panel released its heavily edited findings into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“As good as the joint inquiry and its report are, they are not as complete as they could have been,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a member of the panel. “The nation was not well served by the administration’s failure to provide this critical information to the committees.

“If the independent 9-11 Commission is not given access to this material, its work will also be incomplete,” she warned as Congress passed the baton to an independent panel to continue investigating the intelligence failures that led to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Congress and the White House haggled for months over what could and could not be made public after Congress finished its nine-month inquest.

“It took nearly as long to negotiate an unclassified version of the report with the administration,” she added.

Ultimately, the almost 900-page document is full of “redaction,” or missing words, and includes some completely blank pages.

“Those pages will be filled out,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) promised.

He reminded the public that the nation is still fighting terrorists and said the voids are necessary to protect the country against other would-be attackers.

The United States cannot afford to have terrorists exploit the information the government provides to inform its citizens, he said.

“We did the best we could,” said another panelist, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Goss conceded that the process of declassifying information is too cumbersome and needs to be reformed.

Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.), who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was more forceful: “Most of this censorship is driven not by national security but by the desire to avoid embarrassment to a foreign government or governments, to avoid embarrassment to U.S. agencies whose lapses contributed to September the 11th, to avoid questions.”

Beyond the secrecy issue, Shelby stressed how important it is for Congress to react to the recommendations made in the report.

“The joint committee task force is finished, but implementing its recommendations has just begun,” he said.

Goss noted that several committees have already started holding hearings to draft legislation.

On the same day the report was released, the House Select Committee on Homeland Security discussed the need for law enforcement agencies to share information better.

“If it is true that, as the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks teaches, information — good intelligence — is the lifeblood of homeland security, then it is also true that information must move, must circulate,” Chairman Chris Cox (R-Calif.) said.

“On behalf of the president, the Congress, and the American people, this committee will do everything in its power to make sure that it does,” he added.