Facing the Truth of Sept. 11
Opinion of The New York Times
New York Times | Editorial
Tuesday 29 October 2003
The commission investigating the government's failures before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is in danger of becoming a study in recalcitrance by the Bush administration. The independent commission's mandate is to supply a definitive account of the government's handling of the terrorist plot that killed almost 3,000 people. But the White House continues to fence with requests for classified documents crucial to the inquiry.
The commission chairman, former Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey, a Republican, is threatening to subpoena the administration for documents that officials should forthrightly turn over. Among the key questions is the nature of an intelligence report to President Bush a month before the attacks only sketchily confirmed thus far by the White House that Al Qaeda might try to hijack passenger airplanes.
The commission is up to the task of scrutinizing the failures of intelligence and other government agencies, and classified secrets can be adequately safeguarded. Congress should prepare to extend the commission's 18-month timetable beyond next May, the deadline.
How can an unstinting investigation of the truth of Sept. 11 not be of paramount concern to any official sworn to protect the public? The approaching presidential election makes the administration's evasions even more suspect. Failure to document and face the truth will only feed conspiracy theories and undermine the nation's chances of weathering future threats.
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