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 An inside look at 9/11 report

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Date d'inscription : 01/06/2005

MessageAn inside look at 9/11 report

An inside look at 9/11 report
'Without Precedent' examines arduous task of commission
Doug Mills © The New York Times

9/11 Commission members Lee Hamilton, left, and Thomas H. Kean, right standing, address media and 9/11 family members during a news conference on the commission's final report.
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Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission
Our Rating B
Author: Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 370 pages
Genre: History
Price: $25.95

* Meet the critics
* Tale of lost whale touches the heart
* Editor's notebook, September 1
* Forgetfulness, by Ward Just
* Grayson, by Lynne Cox

By Kelly Lemieux, Special to the News
August 25, 2006
On July 22, 2004, a commission appointed by Congress released a report on the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Unlike any commission in American history, the group released its findings and recommendations for future policy changes in book form on the same day, care of W.W. Norton, for $10.

Hundreds of thousands of copies of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States were sold in the following weeks, making the book a New York Times No. 1 bestseller and a nominee for the National Book Award.

The commission's leaders, former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton, supervised a massive staff over the course of 18 months to produce the report, but the entire story of the its creation has been left for Without Precedent: The Inside of the 9/11 Commission.

This book details how the group - faced with funding shortages, a finite amount of time and public accusations of a cover-up - went about its monumental task of examining all the facts behind the attacks, which directly affected New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., and indirectly affected the rest of the country and the world.

"We were set up to fail," the authors report. "The thought occurred to both of us as we prepared to meet for the first time on a cold day just before the Christmas season of 2002."

Despite having a mountain of work in front of them and their fellow commissioners, Kean and Hamilton obviously had time to keep meticulous records of their endeavor. Those records unfold here in the tone of a journal, revealing the endless jurisdictional deliberations, requests for documents from recalcitrant public officials and emotional trauma of the 9/11 families who lost loved ones.

The book unveils the Herculean efforts to delve into the massive strata of the federal apparatus, much of it classified and requiring the commission's Chief of Staff Philip Zelikow to secure a massive assortment of security clearances and interviews with principles involved.

The various branches contacted include NORAD, FAA, INS, FBI, CIA and the Pentagon. Covert and domestic policies were scrutinized, and trips even made to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Especially interesting were the back-room negotiations over access to the PDBs, or Presidential Daily Briefings, particularly the August 2001 item stating that Bin Laden was determined to strike the U.S., a PDB the Bush administration fought tooth and nail to keep classified.

The wrangling over access to former and current officials, escalating into the press-fueled fight over whether or not Condolezza Rice would testify under oath before the commission, makes Without Precedent a fascinating read. Eventually presidents, national security advisers and defense secretaries appeared before the commission.

The writing is straightforward, drifting just this side of dry, like the original report itself, with its mandate to report "just the facts." It's leavened with a bipartisan spirit that acknowledges the commission's history-making assignment and the need for clear, concise reporting.

The book ends, appropriately, with a unified statement from the two authors. "The day of 9/11 will, with time, become yet another moment in our nation's history, albeit a singular one. The cause of the 9/11 Commission was to capture that moment, make its story known to the American people . . . "

Kelly Lemieux is a freelance writer living in Denver.,2792,DRMN_63_4942092,00.html
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