Monday, February 4, 2008
The Sept. 11 commission's executive director exchanged frequent calls with the White House during the 20-month investigation, including taking at least four from President Bush's chief political adviser at the time, Karl Rove, a new book says.
Philip Zelikow, a friend of then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, once tried to push through wording in a draft report that suggested a greater tie between al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Iraq, in line with White House claims but not with the commission staff's viewpoint, according to Philip Shenon's "The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation."
Shenon, a New York Times reporter, added that Zelikow sought to intimidate staff to avoid damaging findings for President Bush, who at the time was running for reelection, and Rice. Zelikow and Rice had written a book together in 1995 and he would later work for her after the commission finished its job and she became secretary of state in 2005.
The Associated Press obtained an audio version of Shenon's book, which is to go on sale tomorrow.
In a statement, Zelikow acknowledged talking to Rove and Rice during the course of the commission's work despite his general pledge not to. But he said the conversations never dealt with politics. Instead, Rove called with questions about the Bush library and other business related to Zelikow's work at the University of Virginia, Zelikow said.
"Rove and I didn't really know each other," he said in the statement. "I don't recall ever having an extended conversation with him, and certainly not about politics or the commission."
The White House had no immediate comment.
Former congressman Lee Hamilton, the panel's Democratic vice chairman, praised Zelikow as a "person of integrity" who was upfront in disclosing his background and White House contacts.
"Did he try to sway the report to protect the administration? I think the answer was no," Hamilton said.