Transcript: 9/11 Panel Releases Its Final Report
But now we've been warned -- specifically warned. And now we've been told by everyone from the president of the United States on down it's going to happen again. And if it happens and we haven't moved, then the American people are entitled to make very fundamental judgments about that.
QUESTION: You've done a tremendous amount of digging, clearly, to describe the plot and how it was executed.
QUESTION: But do you walk away with some unanswered questions, areas that frustrated you that you still don't have answers to?
KEAN: There are still some unanswered questions because, obviously, the people who were at the heart of the plot are dead.
If we capture Osama bin Laden -- when we capture Osama bin Laden, I hope -- and he answers questions, there may be new information. We've always been what the vice chairman has called in the middle of a moving stream on this one.
Our report, we believe, is a definitive work on 9/11. But are there some questions that can only be answered by people who are not in the United States custody at the moment? Very possibly, and those are answers we might find in the future.
But we have done to the best of our ability. We've seen every piece of paper that is out there. We've interviewed every person who had any responsibility in the area under the two administrations.
And we believe, as of today, that every question we were able to answer has been answered in this report.
(UNKNOWN): And just to follow up a moment on that, I think you will find when you read the report that where we don't know an answer or where there is a logical next step that was not discernible, that we've noted it.
We don't -- there's nothing in here that we were trying to push to the side just because we didn't know a final answer on it. All we could give the American public and give ourselves in our deliberations was the very best and the most we could find.
BEN-VENISTE: I think people, particularly with expertise in the area of government, will see that the amount of information we have collected from within the government is of extraordinary breadth and unique in many instances in the type of information which has been put forward and made available publicly.
Heretofore in various other contexts, reports of this nature have been restricted, have been subject to classification.
BEN-VENISTE: And the public has not had the benefit of the knowledge which those who conducted the investigation were presented.
In our case, as you know, we had certain road blocks. We had to push hard for information. We believe that we have done a credible job in unearthing the information which was within our government.
And we have gone further. We have attempted to get information which was the result of ongoing interrogations of others who had information. And we have made judgments about the integrity of that information and have reported that.
And so we have done our level best to bring forward to the public -- and we have done so as we have moved along -- all relevant information within our ability to put forward. And I think the American public can feel that this was a credible effort led by extraordinary people and an extraordinary staff -- very talented, very dedicated and extraordinarily hard working.
QUESTION: Speaking about New York specifically for a moment, you heard a good deal in the hearings about radio failures and technical problems. And while you make reference to it in the report, you mention that your recommendation is to create a signal corps. What exactly does that mean and how would that solve the radio problems that we experienced?
LEHMAN: We uncovered a fairly significant range of command, control and communications problems. Now, specifically, your question refers to the communications problems.
The military has struggled with this for a long time. Now, today, the normal order of military operations involves all services, integrated, working together. Radios that are designed to work at sea don't necessarily work in intense land environments: in cities, in buildings.
LEHMAN: The military learned long ago that you need a systems approach to radios and to connectivity.
In cities like New York, especially, that is one of the -- remains one of the most important, valuable targets of our enemy, we have to be able to ensure the connectivity between the commanders, the civilian commanders on scene, the mayor and the civilian authorities, the fire department, the fire departments of adjacent areas, police departments, and in totally different environments -- tunnels, skyscrapers, in the port areas, and so forth.
There's no one radio you can buy to fix that. And so you need a systems approach like the military uses.
Every military unit that deploys to an operational area has a signal corps-type unit with it that has the robust communications of different kinds that can keep the different units connected together and communicating, whether it's in a ship-to-shore or an air-to-ground or a ground-to-ground environment, and with the people trained on how to ensure a fail-safe connectivity.
That does not exist in New York or most other cities today. And with the assistance of the Pentagon and the federal government, it is a very high priority that this kind of connectivity be established to deal with threats in the future.
KEAN: Thank you, John.
And I must say, as far as New York City goes, I personally feel one of our important recommendations is that money for homeland security should not be given out of as a revenue-sharing program, but should be given largest amounts, by far, to the areas of greatest need and the most prominent targets. And that would, I presume, give most of that money to New York City, with Washington equal or a close second.
QUESTION: On this question of the Iraq-Al Qaida relationship, it looks as if, in this final report, you, sort of, scaled back some of the language from the staff statement with respect to that finding of no collaborative relationship. This time you say "no collaborative operational relationship with regard to the attacks on the United States." I wondered if you might just address that.
And then, on the same lines, whether you're talking about Richard Clarke's e-mails contained in this final report or Secretary Cohen's testimony to the commission, it appears that the Clinton administration believed in 1998 and believes today that Iraq provided at least some chemical weapons expertise to Al Qaida. I wondered if you had a comment on that.
KEAN: Well, there was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaida. At one point, there was thought maybe even Al Qaida would find sanctuary in Iraq. And there were conversations that went on over a number of years, sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessfully.
While we don't know about weapons collaboration, particularly chemical collaboration, there was a suspicion in the Clinton administration that when they fired that bomb at that factory, that if, in fact, there were chemicals there, they may have come from Iraq.
So there was a relationship.
Having said that, we have found no relationship whatever between Iraq and the attack on 9/11. That just doesn't exist.
So I think we are very careful in our wording in using that word "collaborative relationship." I mean, that's what we found. It's language that's evidence-based.
HAMILTON: In further response, I think there's a very large distinction between evidence of conversations that might have occurred between Iraq and Al Qaida, on the one hand, and an emerging strategy or emerging assistance -- concrete -- on the other.
And what we do not have, as the chairman said, is any evidence of a concrete collaborative operational agreement. Conversations, yes, but nothing concrete.
QUESTION: In reading the report, I noticed that the language that you used to describe Saudi Arabia is very vague and it seemed actually a little watered down, given what that country's track record is. I wonder if you can explain that.
And I also wonder if you can get into why you did not address any of the issues that have been raised recently by film-maker Michael Moore about connections between the Saudi family, the bin Laden family and the Bush administration and whether that may have played any role in all of this.
KEAN: Well, I haven't seen Mr. Moore's film. I'm not sure what those allegations are.
We do talk quite definitively about the allegation that there was a flight of Saudis that took off before airspace was opened, authorized by a high level in the United States government without the proper interviewing by the FBI. And what we say is that story is just not true.
That plane took off. It took off after the airspace was open, after the FBI had screened the people, and it was authorized by Mr. Clarke. We do handle that one.
We didn't water down any language that I'm aware of on Saudi Arabia. What we do say is that we've got to get beyond this relationship having to do with just oil. We have got to work with the Saudi government, that shares a very common interest with us now, because the terrorists would be very, very -- just as happy, I think, to destroy the government in Saudi Arabia right now as they would our own government. And they have a very common interest in working with us against the terrorists at this point, who have attacked them as much as well as attacked us.
We do believe, however, that our relationship with that country cannot be just, we'll ignore this and that and they'll give us oil and everything will be fine. We have got to help them and urge them to implement reforms to get some stability in that country, to help us trace money, if money is a problem, as it gets to terrorist organizations.
HAMILTON (?): Tom, if I may add to that, we have found no evidence of the involvement of the Saudi government in the plot. We have found evidence of individual Saudis and Saudi charities, whether witting or unwitting, we do not know, whose funds have found their way to the support of Al Qaida and terrorism.
Since 9/11, and especially since May of 2003, Saudi cooperation with regard to the United States has sharply improved. And they are helping us now on the terrorist financing issue. They've taken steps to tighten up the regulation in their financial communities to guard against terrorist financing.
As the chairman mentioned, this is a very difficult relationship for the United States and has been for a long time. But we want to see that relationship get more depth and texture to it than it has had in the past several decades. And that relationship should include a shared commitment to political and economic reform in the kingdom, and a shared commitment to greater respect for tolerance in the society, and a shared commitment to fight terrorism and a shared commitment in the reform area to improve the quality of education.
This is a very large agenda that we need to develop with the Saudis because it's such a very important country in this war on terrorism.
KEAN: Senator Gorton?
GORTON: I think, you know, in a sense it's difficult to answer a negative. But in the report, we include all of the facts that we regard relevant to Al Qaida and the United States and to Saudi Arabia and Iraq to the charge which we were given.
GORTON: You know, we do not spend a lot of time attempting to prove negatives. We lay out the evidence. We lay out the facts. By and large, the conclusions from those facts are left to the American people to make, except when they seem to us to be obvious.
So the materials in here on Saudi Arabia are the materials we consider relevant to our report. The materials in here on Iraq are the materials we consider relevant to the report.
QUESTION: Governor Thompson indicated that policy-makers will ignore your own recommendations, sort of, at their own peril, but some of these recommendations have been out for a long time. For example, the joint inquiry two years ago recommended a director of national intelligence.
Your charter expires in a month. The legislative calendar is very short. You're in an election year. What concrete steps can you take to ensure that your report isn't just on a bookshelf somewhere like so many other blue ribbon commissions?
KEAN: We have been working on that one ever since the day we were created.
We read those other reports. There are a number of commissions who made first-class recommendations. If they'd been implemented, this country would have been better and safer. They were not implemented. They were ignored. The Hart-Rudman commission comes to mind. The Lockerbie commission is another on. All commissions which made good recommendations.
We have determined as a commission not to let that happen.
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