Thursday, February 12, 2004

9/11 families: Reaching the breaking point with Kean's "no smoking gun" remark? 

Once again, the regional papers cover the story where Isvestia on the Hudson and Pravda on the Potomac do not. Bob Braun of the Newark Star-Ledger reports:

The head of the national 9/11 commission yesterday came under tough, often emotional questioning from families of the terror victims concerned the panel has too little time to finish its investigation and is prejudging its conclusions.

The family members met for three hours with the commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, a day after the panel compromised with the White House over access to classified Oval Office intelligence documents.

Members of the Family Steering Committee monitoring the commission's work said they were upset that the panel did not get full access to important documents, and angry over a published comment by Kean that the White House intelligence material contained "no smoking guns."

Emerging from their closed-door meeting with Kean, which was punctuated by shouts and table-pounding, family members expressed unhappiness that Kean appeared to have been pre-empting the investigation.

"I don't know how he can say that before more public hearings are held and top administration officials are questioned under oath," said Mindy Kleinberg of East Brunswick, a 9/11 widow. She called Kean's ["smoking gun"] published remark "very offensive" and added he had "prejudged the work of the commission.

Prejudged the work of the commission?! You mean, exactly like McCain did for the WhiteWash Commission on intelligence? I'm starting to sense a pattern here ...

The families also made a forceful case for Congress to grant the commission a lengthy extension beyond its May 27 deadline.

The commission and the White House have signed off on a two-month extension until July 27, but the family members want the investigation to proceed until January 2005. Some leaders in Congress, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), are opposed to any extension.

Patty Casazza of Colts Neck, whose husband died in the attacks, said the panel should put aside political considerations and press Congress to approve as much time as needed.

"I hope that the commission would stand with the families on the side of what is right and ethical as opposed to caving in to the political pandering in Washington," said Casazza. "I feel their decisions are being influenced by what they think they will be able to get out of Washington."

Kristen Breitweiser of Middletown said the family members reached no agreement with Kean, and maintained her organization would ask Congress to establish "another commission" if the Kean panel failed to seek the "time it needs."

"It needs the time to interview witnesses, to hold public hearings with high-level administration officials, and to issue subpoenas and go to court, if necessary," said Breitweiser, whose husband died in the World Trade Center attack.

The meeting was scheduled to last two hours but ran much longer. Through the door, the relatives could clearly be heard shouting at Kean. "Who is hiding what?" said one participant. "You've got the power, why don't you use it," said another.

No, 9/11 families—you have the power! And don't take it out on Kean—he's just the punching bag. That's what he's there for.

That drip-drip-dripping sound is starting to get awfully steady...

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