UQ Wire: White House Obstructs 9/11 Investigation
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From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Aug. 3, 2003
White House Obstructs 9/11 Investigation
Interview with David Potorti, cofounder of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, conducted by Scott Harris
Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/potorti080803.ram
After initially opposing the formation of an independent panel to examine the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the White House was pressured by Congress to establish a commission of inquiry in late 2002 to look into the deadly assaults on New York and Washington. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was tasked with examining allegations that U.S. intelligence agencies ignored warnings from their operatives that al-Qaeda was planning to strike American targets with high-jacked planes.
But several members of the bipartisan commission have recently complained that the Bush administration has been obstructing the inquiry. Members of the panel, including the Commission's chairman, former New Jersey Republican Gov. Thomas Kean, have criticized the Justice Department and Pentagon for not responding to a series of requests for evidence. The Justice Dept. was singled out by Chairman Kean for what he described as efforts to intimidate witnesses from intelligence agencies, who they required to be accompanied by government "minders." A final report from a separate congressional investigation into 9/11 was recently released.
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group representing 80 family members of Sept. 11 victims, has demanded that President Bush fully cooperate with the terror investigation. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with David Potorti, who cofounded the group after his brother Jim died in the attack on the World Trade Center. He discusses what members of his organization want from the commission and why he believes the White House is dragging its feet in providing information in the investigation.
David Potorti: One of our goals of our group is to demand a full, fair and open investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, which is a no-brainer as far as our group is concerned. But it is interesting that the (space) shuttle disaster which happened this spring, I guess they’re pretty much wrapping that investigation up. Boom, we’ve had this disaster, and we’ve got an investigation and now it’s sort of done, and one sort of has to wonder why it’s taken two years to even begin an investigation into the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history and obviously we want to see it happen. We’re perplexed why there continues to be what can only be described as foot-dragging or stonewalling. In terms of the commission itself, it’s certainly an improvement over Henry Kissinger. We were going to do a public statement about Henry Kissinger, who we thought was thoroughly compromised as somebody who could be an objective observer or participant in the commission because he obviously has a lot o f business interest in the Middle East, and a lot of them are not necessarily savory business interests. I think it was good that he dropped out. I’m sure you saw the recent article in the New York Times where Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton -- the chairman and I guess, assistant chair of the commission -- kind of said that they were not getting full cooperation from the Justice Department, not getting cooperation that they would like from the Defense Department, including the joint chiefs of staff and the North American Aerospace Command, NORAD.
Actually when I saw this story in the New York Times, I was quite heartened. They said, “We’re going public with these complaints because we want to pressure the administration into getting more cooperation” from the various departments I just mentioned, the Justice and Defense departments. And I think that’s a good sign, because there’s a lot that needs to be learned and among the things that interest me as somebody who lost his brother at the World Trade Center, it’s not even so much about al Qaeda or foreign policy or what’s going on in the Middle East, I want to know just personally how is it possible that this kind of attack could have happened in my country, which at the time was spending $1 billion a day on defense. It wasn’t that we had a poor response or a late response on Sept. 11 by our Department of Defense -- we had no response on Sept. 11 by our Department of Defense.
Between The Lines. What is your best guess as to why the government is not cooperating with the commission investigating 9/11. In addition to that, what do you think is behind the insistence of the Justice Dept. that intelligence agencies were testifying before would have to be accompanied by representatives of the intelligence agencies they work for, seen by many as an attempt to intimidate people from maybe providing certain kinds of evidence or testimony.
David Potorti: Well, that is a funny point isn’t it? We actually sent a delegation of four people to Iraq in January of this year to meet with civilians -- kind of a people-to-people delegation -- and one of the things they talked about when they got back was how weird it was to have to have government minders. It showed them what it really was like living in a dictatorship, that the government had to know everything that was being said and to really keep tabs on everything. And then here we are, people are testifying about Sept. 11 and they have to be accompanied by government minders and of course, the Justice Departments says, "Well, we do send people along to clarify things." But it certainly has a chilling effect regardless of whether that's what they normally do or not. I imagine it would have a very chilling effect on what was said and then it would almost force people to go outside of that system and become what you might call whistle-blowers.
I think, in a way, that's the only way we're going to find out anything, is if people are just brave enough to come forward and tell what they know. And in terms of why this happened, I mean, you know, my opinion is as good anybody's and I don't mean to come on the radio, you know, as a member of my group and put forth my own theories or schemes, so take them with a grain of salt, but the farther away we get from Sept. 11 and look at what is going on, where we have military action in Afghanistan, an oil pipeline set up from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan into Pakistan and down to the water and all along the oil pipeline there are U.S. military bases which parallel the course of the oil pipeline, you have to ask yourself, well this interesting. We went there to rid the people of the Taliban and "liberate them" and now we have an oil pipeline and all these military bases guarding the oil pipeline, so, I guess is you were prone to be suspicious, you might say, "Well, here's an example of corporate America using the military of the United States, who are wonderful people and well-intentioned people and God bless them for them doing what they do, but perhaps here is our government using our military to serve as a private army for corporations." That certainly is one theory.
And then we look at what's going on in Iraq and we very much see -- you know, I've seen all the reports you've seen, where the only thing that was guarded was the Oil Ministry and all of the people that are benefiting from the invasion seem to be linked to Halliburton, and the Carlyle Group and you know, all of these crony capitalism sort of names that keep on coming up. You know, just on the face of it, you look at that stuff and it can't help but make you feel really, really cynical about what's going on.
The bottom line is, I want to have faith in my government, and the only I can have that, and the only way anybody can have that really is to have an open government and I think this is something that Republican, Democrats, conservative, liberals -- I think everybody can agree on the need for open government and accountable government. The thing that just bugs me about the Bush administration is there is no accountability and no openness.
Contact September Eleventh Families of Peaceful Tomorrows by calling (919) 608-7322 or visit their website at http://www.peacefultomorrows.org.
Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl080803.html#1hed
- "Now We Pay the Afghan Warlords to Tyrannise the Afghan People," by Isabel Hilton, The Guardian, July 30, 2003
- "The 9/11 Investigation," by David Corn, The Nation.com, July 24, 2003
- 9/11 Commission Says U.S. Agencies Slow Its Inquiry," by Philip Shenon, The New York Times, July 9, 2003
- "Some Feds Slow 9-11 Probe, Preventing Closure," by Helen Thomas, Hearst Newspapers, July 17, 2003
- "9/11 Inquiry Alleges Witness Intimidation," by Julian Borger, The Guardian, July 10, 2003
- "U.S. report on 9/11 to be 'explosive,'" Government errors, Saudi ties to terrorists among highlights, by Frank Davies, by Miami Herald, July 10, 2003
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (http://www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Aug. 8, 2003. Between The Lines Q&A compiled by Anna Manzo. AOL users: Click here!
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