- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The commission set up to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks said yesterday it would issue a subpoena, its first, to the Federal Aviation Administration because of “serious deficiencies in [that] agency’s production of critical documents.”

“The FAA’s performance was poor and its compliance was pitiful,” said commission member Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. “I am glad that the commission has acted in such a bipartisan, aggressive and thorough fashion to use the weapons in its arsenal” to ensure cooperation.

He said the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States would not hesitate to issue more subpoenas if warranted.

In a statement, the 10-member panel said that despite having been told by the FAA that it had all relevant documents, “over the past two weeks … the commission learned that various tapes, statements, interview reports, and agency self-assessments highly material to our inquiry inexplicably had not been included in the FAA’s production.”

Though the agency had immediately turned over “dozens of boxes and materials that its representatives now claim satisfy our request,” the 10-member commission said it was issuing the subpoena because “the delay had impeded the progress of our investigation and undermined our confidence in the completeness of the FAA’s production.”

The FAA said it was “surprised” by the decision, which it called unnecessary.

“There was never any intention on our part to withhold anything they wanted,” spokeswoman Laura J. Brown said. “We just didn’t fully understand the scope of their request. It was a communication problem.”

She said that the agency had turned over 40 boxes of documents — totaling 150,000 pages — and 230 hours of recordings of conversations between air traffic controllers on September 11.

“We’re continuing to work with them to get them everything they want,” she said.

Mr. Roemer said that in addition to directly ensuring that the FAA produced everything they wanted, the subpoena also was intended as a message to other parts of the administration.

“The fact that we’re still dealing with access questions 10 months in, when there’s more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than there is in the top, is very frustrating,” he said. The commission’s report is due May 27.

The commission said last week that it is still negotiating with the White House over access to certain very sensitive national-security documents.

Among the documents being requested by the commission are the highly classified presidential daily briefings, which summarize intelligence about the most important threats to national security, and the minutes of National Security Council meetings.

Media reports have suggested that one presidential daily briefing in August warned that al Qaeda might try to use jetliners as weapons.

“As a member of the Joint Congressional Inquiry [into September 11], I believed that investigation should have had access” to the presidential daily briefings, Mr. Roemer said. That inquiry was not allowed to see them.

“As a member of the commission, I believe that we need access to the PDBs. I hope we get access to all the sensitive documents we need.”

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