From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
 

Pelosi Statement on Release of 9/11 Joint Inquiry Report

July 24, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today at a press conference held to release the declassified version of the report of the Joint Inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into the September 11th terrorist attacks:

“It was a privilege to join Chairman Goss, Senators Graham and Shelby, and the members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees for the critical effort to improve our intelligence capabilities in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. I was pleased to work on the joint inquiry with people of such patriotism and commitment.

“My special thanks goes to the joint inquiry staff, particularly to Eleanor Hill and Rick Cinquegrana who lead it so successfully. Eleanor and Rick gave tirelessly of themselves not only on the investigation, but also on the declassification process that turned out to be a significant challenge in its own right. I want to thank Britt Snider, too, for the work he did in assembling the staff.

“Always on our minds during the inquiry was our responsibility to the families of those who perished in the attacks and to the American people. We are privileged to have some of the families here with us today. I said often during the inquiry that anything touching upon the events of September 11 is hallowed ground, to be treated with the utmost respect.

“This inquiry is not about assigning blame; it is about better protecting Americans in the future. The inquiry was conducted with that uppermost in our minds. The report discharges our responsibility as fully as we were able to do.

“Our work started with the recognition of a sobering fact: al Qaeda was better at planning the attacks and keeping their plans secret than the United States government was at uncovering them.

“The findings that were released last December detail deficiencies in the performance of our intelligence agencies: They failed to share information; they failed to ensure that techniques for collection and analysis were of the highest standards; and they failed to focus appropriately on the possibility that foreign-based terrorists would attack in the United States.

“The joint inquiry made recommendations last December that were intended to address those fundamental problems, and I trust the intelligence committees are monitoring the implementation of those recommendations. The unclassified report we are releasing today provides a better understanding of the basis for those judgments.

“As good as the joint inquiry and its report are, they are not as complete as they could have been. We repeatedly encountered obstacles in getting necessary information from the Bush Administration.

“For example, we were never able to get much of the material we requested from the National Security Council, specifically the records of the Counterterrorism Working Group and written exchanges between the NSC and the intelligence community on counterterrorism proposals.

“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. That is not in our nation’s best interests.

“In addition, the Administration’s failure to cooperate fully with the joint inquiry showed an unwillingness to exhaust every effort to discover information that might assist in better protecting the American people. Even the joint inquiry’s success in uncovering information in the files of the FBI dealing with the activities of the hijackers in the United States that had been previously unknown by senior Bureau officials did not encourage the Administration to be more responsive to requests for access to records and other documents.

“Equally disappointing was the process of declassifying the report. The joint inquiry took about nine months to do its work. It took nearly as long to negotiate an unclassified version of the report with the Administration.

“That was about six months too long. Much more of the report could have been declassified without any impact on national security. This is especially true with respect to references to sources of foreign support for the hijackers.

“Time and time again, this Administration keeps information classified rather than making it public. Classification certainly must protect sources and methods, but it should not be used to protect reputations. This is at odds with the enormity of the tragedy we suffered on September 11 and the necessity of doing everything we can to make it less likely that we would experience events like those again.

“I am proud of the work of the joint inquiry. Better cooperation from the Administration, however, would have enabled us to do a more thorough job for the American people.”


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