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May 12, 2004
9/11 Panel Grandstanding Again

The Washington Post reports today that the 9/11 Commission, whose public hearings provoked bitter partisan bickering but produced little in the way of actionable information, now wants to question al-Qaeda detainees:

The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is trying to gain access to some members of al Qaeda in U.S. custody to pose questions to them, panel officials said yesterday. ...

The Sept. 11 panel, which has sporadically feuded with the Bush administration over access to information and witnesses during the past year, already has had access to transcripts and reports about al Qaeda detainees in U.S. custody, officials said. But an ability to directly question them would give the panel a remarkable level of access to detainees held in secrecy and generally off limits to defense attorneys.

The panel has particular interest, the Post reports, in interviewing Zacarias Moussaoui and Ramzi Binalshibh. Lee Hamilton, the ranking Democrat, claims that "they have a procedure in mind" for questioning these and possibly other detainees. What they don't explain is why they feel the need to directly question them. They have access to the interrogation reports, as the Post makes clear in the article. They also have access to the interrogators. Do they mean to imply that these politicians can somehow do a better job of interrogating terrorists than the FBI and the CIA?

Obviously, the idea here is not to gather more information; the 9/11 Commission hopes to drum up publicity by grandstanding once again. Either they get to meet the detainees, up close and personal, for no particular reason except for their own ego, or they force the Bush administration to act like grown-ups and block access, which allows the panel to paint the White House as uncooperative again. Let's remember that the panel's original mandate was to determine the mechanics of the intelligence failures that led us to be unprepared for the 9/11 attacks, not to play Clue with the crimes themselves.

Someone needs to put Hamilton and his Baker Street Irregulars back in their box. They have all the information they need to fulfill their original mandate, and we don't need them expanding their swollen mandate any further than it's already gone. Their continued efforts at self-aggrandizement have irreparably damaged this panel's reputation and have relegated its eventual product to nothing more than partisan fodder in an election year.

Besides, with all of the sensitivity towards detainees currently in vogue, wouldn't having Jamie Gorelick question Moussaoui amount to humiliation and abuse?

UPDATE: More at the New York Times:

"We think the result will be that we will have the information we need from these people," Lee H. Hamilton, the vice chairman of the commission, said at a meeting with reporters. "This has been one of the more difficult access questions."

What exactly does Hamilton think that the detainees will tell the panel? "Oh, see, where you made your mistake was in not profiling Arabs at checkpoints, and by the way, watch out for people claiming to come here to study at Chicago University"? This is what they'll hear from the detainees:

1. I'm innocent.
2. I'm a victim of George Bush's racist agenda.
3. Call NBC and ask them if they're interested in my life story.

I have an idea -- why doesn't the commission try the same effort with criminal "detainees" in regular American prisons? I'll bet they find out that the places are filled with wrongfully-convicted peace advocates.

These people simply aren't serious.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 12, 2004 5:53 AM

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