NEWSWEEK EXCLUSIVE: Before Rice Agreed to Testify in Public, 9/11 Commission Executive Director Faxed White House 1945 Photo Showing Presidential Chief of Staff Appearing Before Pearl Harbor Congressional Panel
Sunday April 4, 11:00 am ET
Zelikow Warned White House Counsel That Unless Rice Testified in Public, Photo Would '...Be All Over Washington in 24 Hours'
NEW YORK, April 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Last Monday morning 9/11 commission executive director Philip Zelikow faxed a photograph to the White House counsel's office with a note saying that if the White House didn't allow national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify in public before the commission, the photograph would"...be all over Washington in 24 hours," Newsweek has learned. The photo, from a Nov. 22, 1945, New York Times story, showed presidential chief of staff Adm. William D. Leahy, appearing before a special congressional panel investigating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The point was clear: The White House could no longer get away with the claim that Rice's appearance would be a profound breach of precedent.
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20040404/NYSU003 )
Zelikow, a University of Virginia historian, had been poring over records of the Pearl Harbor inquiries for months, report Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and National Security Correspondent John Barry in the April 12 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 5). Those probes, Zelikow believes, are the clearest blueprint for the 9/11 panel's work. "This is what happens when you hire historians," jokes commission chairman Thomas Kean.
A White House aide says it is "fatuous" to say the Leahy photo forced the White House to capitulate. But after battling with the panel for nearly a year over documents and testimony, the White House finally relented and said Rice would testify publicly under oath. Next week, the panel is slated to hear from Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Janet Reno, and two former FBI directors, Louis Freeh and his interim successor, Thomas Pickard.
People close to the commission are expecting a bitter confrontation between Pickard and Ashcroft. Pickard is expected to scorch Ashcroft for showing little interest in terrorism before 9/11, Newsweek has learned. The A.G. denied proposed funding increases for FBI counterterrorism programs. Ashcroft is expected to say that Pickard could have shifted resources if he thought it was so important. Commissioners will ask both of them why bin Laden family members were flown out of the country after the attacks.
The FBI lapses have led some commissioners to consider recommending an overhaul of U.S. intelligence in their final report, due July 26. That could include a proposal to break up the FBI and create a new domestic spy agency, similar to Britain's MI5, to hunt terrorists inside the country. "This is perhaps our most difficult choice," Kean tells Newsweek. FBI Director Robert Mueller is fighting the idea. A possible compromise: a semi-independent anti- terrorist unit inside the FBI.