Ten years after the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, most of the 9/11 Commission’s findings have not been released to the public, despite the fact that the National Archives were scheduled to release the full material in 2009.
Only a third of the unreleased material has been reviewed to possibly be made public, and much of that has been withheld or heavily redacted. Several former commission staff members said there is no comprehensive effort to make the remaining material public, and they fear much of it will remain sealed indefinitely.
The findings of the Commission are important public information, the release of which the entire Commission is on the record as endorsing. Philip Zelikow, the commission’s staff director, said it “could be declassified in full without any harm to national security” and that includes his 7,000-word summary he helped prepare of daily presidential intelligence briefings from 1998 through the attack.
Keeping them secret reveals the both the tendency of the government to over-classify and the unhealthy trepidation to lay blame on any elected official past or present.
Commission Chairman Thomas Kean said “Most of what I read that was classified shouldn’t have been.” He said. “Easily 60 percent of the classified documents have no reason to be classified – none.”
Included in the unreleased material are a 30-page summary of an April 29, 2004 interview by all 10 commissioners with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, source material on actions by President Bush on the day of the attacks and the Clinton administration’s earlier approach to the al Qaeda threat.
There is likely much more unreleased material that would be imperative for scholars, journalists, and foreign policy experts to have, but the classification persists with no full explanation as to why.