- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

An independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks will meet behind closed doors today to begin a $3 million, 16-month investigation into the terrorist strikes that killed more than 3,000 people.
The 10-member commission, led by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, will initially focus on selecting an executive director and will establish the investigation procedures. It will also look for office space.
"Once we get those things in place, then we will have something to say," Mr. Kean told reporters last week in New Jersey. "We are writing a history. Hopefully it's the authoritative story of what happened and also the kind of thing that prevents it from happening again."
Once up and running, the commission, with five Republicans and five Democrats, is expected to focus on investigating issues related to the attacks, including intelligence failures, aviation security and related immigration problems.
Congress exempted the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, from a federal requirement to hold all meetings in public. Lawmakers said only that it should hold public hearings and public meetings "to the extent appropriate."
In November, President Bush named Mr. Kean, president of Drew University in Madison, N.J., and Republican governor from 1982 to 1990, to lead the panel after former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger resigned abruptly.
The commission will have the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents by a vote of six of the members or by agreement of the chairman and the vice chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat.
At the time of Mr. Kean's appointment, Mr. Bush urged the commission to complete its work by June 2004 to "help me and future presidents to understand the methods of America's enemies and the nature of the threats we face."
Mr. Bush also urged the commission to "follow all the facts, wherever they lead."
The president said the commission would "build upon the work of the congressional joint inquiries to carefully examine the circumstances surrounding the attacks and the lessons to be learned from them."
He said he expected the commission's final report to contain "important recommendations for steps that can be taken to improve our preparedness for and response to terrorist attacks in the future."
Mr. Kissinger, an international consultant, stepped down amid charges of conflicts of interest related to his clients, a complete list of which Mr. Kissinger declined to make public. The client list is said to include many foreign governments.
Two days before Mr. Kissinger's withdrawal, former Sen. George J. Mitchell, Maine Democrat, stepped down as vice chairman, citing time constraints. Democrats replaced Mr. Mitchell with Mr. Hamilton.
Republican commission members are Mr. Kean; former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson; Fred Fielding, White House counsel to President Reagan; former Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington state; and John Lehman, Navy secretary during the Reagan administration.
Commission Democrats are Mr. Hamilton; former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia; former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana; Washington superlawyer Richard Ben-Veniste; and Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general under President Clinton.
Mr. Kean is regarded as a moderate Republican with a record of cooperation with Democrats. He has promised an aggressive investigation and, with the power to subpoena, has said the commission will have no problem "looking under every rock."

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