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Context of 'February 5, 2004: White House Reverses Position and Backs 9/11 Commission Extension'

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In the wake of damaging Congressional 9/11 inquiry revelations, President Bush reverses course and backs efforts by many lawmakers to form an independent commission to conduct a broader investigation than the current Congressional inquiry. Newsweek reports that Bush had virtually no choice. “There was a freight train coming down the tracks,” says one White House official. [Newsweek, 9/22/2002] But as one of the 9/11 victim’s relatives says, “It’s carefully crafted to make it look like a general endorsement but it actually says that the commission would look at everything except the intelligence failures.” [CBS News, 9/20/2002] Rather than look into such failures, Bush wants the commission to focus on areas like border security, visa issues, and the “role of Congress” in overseeing intelligence agencies. The White House also refuses to turn over documents showing what Bush knew before 9/11. [Newsweek, 9/22/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 9/11 Commission realizes that it will not meet its reporting deadline of May 2004 and decides it will have to ask for an extension. Any extension would have to be approved by Congressional leaders and the White House. In order to determine how much extra time the commission will need, Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton poll the other commissioners and staff members to gauge their opinions. Commissioners Slade Gorton and Tim Roemer suggest six months, but this would push the reporting date back after the presidential election in November. Kean and Hamilton are aware that this will probably not be permitted by Republicans, as they will be worried that parts of the report critical of Bush will be leaked to the press. In addition, Kean wants the report out during the presidential campaign, in the hopes that the two candidates will have a “bidding war” over who will implement more of the commission’s recommendations. In the end, the commission decides to ask for a two-month extension, meaning the report will be issued in July. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 226-227] The extension is initially opposed by the White House (see January 19, 2004), but the administration changes its mind (see February 5, 2004), and the extension is finally granted (see March 2, 2004).

Entity Tags: Slade Gorton, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean, Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections

The Washington Post reports, “A growing number of [9/11 Commission] members [have] concluded that the panel needs more time to prepare a thorough and credible accounting of missteps leading to the terrorist attacks.” As a result, the commission is asking Congress to vote on approving a several month extension to finish their report. “But the White House and leading Republicans have informed the panel that they oppose any delay, which raises the possibility that Sept. 11-related controversies could emerge during the heat of the presidential campaign.” [Washington Post, 1/19/2004] The White House will reverse its stance a month later (see February 5, 2004).

Entity Tags: White House, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, 2004 Elections

In January 2004, the White House announced that it opposed giving the 9/11 Commission more time to complete its work (see January 19, 2004). But on this day, CNN reports, “After resisting the idea for months, the White House announced… its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work.” 9/11 victims’ relatives and some politicians had been pressuring the White House to support the deadline extension. [CNN, 2/5/2004]

Entity Tags: White House, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, 2004 Elections

9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton meet with Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, including Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom Delay, to discuss an extension of the commission’s reporting deadline (see Mid-December 2003-Mid-January 2004). The extension is opposed by the House leadership, which has had bad relations with the commission for some time and has been very critical of the commission. For example, a month before the meeting Hastert had accused Democrats on the commission of “leaking things,” trying to “make it a political issue,” and inflict “death by a thousand cuts” on the Bush administration. It is unclear why the House leadership is so against the extension, even though it has been approved by Senate Republicans and the White House. One theory advanced by Democratic commissioners is that, although the White House has publicly dropped its opposition to the extension (see January 19, 2004 and February 5, 2004), it does not really want it and is simply getting Hastert to act as a proxy. Author Philip Shenon will comment: “If Hastert’s contempt for the commission was being stage-managed by anyone at the White House, it was assumed on the commission to be Dick Cheney. The vice president was a frequent, if rarely announced, visitor to the Speaker’s office.” However, Kean persuades Hastert and the other House leaders to accept the extension, removing the last hurdle. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 227-229]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Dennis Hastert, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean, Tom DeLay

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections

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