Sept. 11 commissioners seek revised aviation security report

A former member of the 9/11 commission this week called on the administration to revise a report on aviation security before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks so it does not contain redacted sections.

The third staff report from the 9/11 commission was released by the administration last month, even though it was completed in August. Parts of the report, however, were redacted, making it the only part of the commission's work that was not released in its entirety.

"These redactions are a disservice to the 9/11 families, to the commission and to the nation," former commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations during a hearing Wednesday. The hearing was held to examine the issue of excessive classification.

Ben-Veniste, along with all the other former commissioners and some staff, are now part of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a public-education campaign.

"If the administration is willing to meet with former commission staff, including those who drafted this report, we are confident that a report without redactions can be produced in short order," Ben-Veniste said. "Such a report, with integrity and credibility, is exactly the kind of report that the American government should produce and the kind of report that the American people deserve."

The report, called The Four Flights and Civil Aviation Security, examines aviation warnings prior to the 9/11 attacks and failures within the aviation security system that contributed to the attacks.

A memorandum prepared for the subcommittee on Feb. 24 stated that the delay of the report and redactions within it raise concerns.

"Some are questioning whether the administration abused the classification process to improperly withhold the 9/11 commission findings from Congress and the public until now based on political rather then purely security considerations," the memo stated.

Ben-Veniste said former 9/11 commission members and staff do not believe the redactions to the third report were justified because they concern a civil aviation security system that no longer exists.

"We cannot say with certainty why the declassification review of this last staff report took so long, and why the outcome was so unsatisfactory," Ben-Veniste said.

"Part of the answer is that the administration decided it could no longer negotiate with former commission staff-including the authors of the report-because they became private citizens after Aug. 21. The administration refused to engage former commission staff in a dialogue about the declassification process."

He added: "In the absence of dialogue and pressure from an existing commission, the declassification process took an inordinate amount of time and produced an unsatisfactory result."