National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
will testify under oath today before the Sept. 11 commission. This
testimony follows months of Bush administration obstructionism in
which Rice refused to publicly testify despite widespread outcry.
While this testimony, and its proceedings, will surely be important
to the commission, it is by no means the final hurdle the Bush
administration must leap in order to present the truth to the
American people. Following the completion of the commission’s
work, the White House will requisition its findings and review
them, ostensibly for national security purposes, until it sees fit
to release them to the public — potentially after
November’s presidential election. Such a move would be
outright political manipulation that would eliminate Bush
administration accountability for the Sept. 11 attack.
The American people deserve the Sept. 11 commission’s
information, and they deserve it soon. The Bush administration
should commit to releasing the files by the symbolic date of Sept.
11, 2004. Three years of waiting for answers are enough; the truth
cannot be a political contest. The Bush Administration has been
less than forthcoming in releasing the facts about Sept. 11. Bush
opposed prolonging its investigation, and has refused to offer
information or expert testimony over the course of the
commission’s inquiry. The refusal to allow Rice to testify
under oath had simply been the most recent chapter in its long
history of secrecy. When Rice testifies today, her presence will
signify only a small concession on the part of the administration
to the American people.
When all is said and done, the White House still possesses the
privilege of reviewing the findings of the commission, and can
continue to do so until those findings are declared satisfactory
for the public by the administration.
The Congressional Sept. 11 commission exists as part of the
constitutional framework of checks and balances. The fact that the
White House has reserved final review privileges violates the
intent of these safeguards. In fact, the American people have no
recourse against possible White House censorship of important
information and documents. The possibility of censorship regarding
vital Sept. 11 information is frightening. The administration must
not use the power it has reserved for itself to block out important
words and information.
Almost the entire term of the Bush presidency will have elapsed
by this Sept. 11. Grieving Americans deserve to know the truth
about the president’s national security readiness in advance
of the Sept 11 attacks, especially because Bush will focus his
re-election campaign largely on the issue of national security.
Electoral accountability is at stake, and the Bush administration
cannot make such a fundamental cornerstone of democracy just
another part of its political strategy.
America deserves the commission’s findings well in advance
of November, and the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is a
perfect occasion to release them.