Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) is calling for an investigation into whether President Bush and other government officials had advance notice of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 but did nothing to prevent them. She added that "persons close to this administration are poised to make huge profits off America's new war."
In a recent interview with a Berkeley, Calif., radio station, McKinney said: "We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11th. . . . What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered? . . . What do they have to hide?"
McKinney declined to be interviewed yesterday, but she issued a statement saying: "I am not aware of any evidence showing that President Bush or members of his administration have personally profited from the attacks of 9-11. A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case."
Bush spokesman Scott McLellan dismissed McKinney's comments.
"The American people know the facts, and they dismiss such ludicrous, baseless views," he said. "The fact that she questions the president's legitimacy shows a partisan mind-set beyond all reason."
In the radio conversation, McKinney delivered a stinging attack on the administration. In 2000, she charged, Bush forces "stole from America our most precious right of all, the right to free and fair elections." With the September attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, McKinney said, "an administration of questionable legitimacy has been given unprecedented power."
She suggested that the administration was serving the interests of a Washington-based investment firm, the Carlyle Group, which employs a number of high-ranking former government officials from both parties. Former president George H.W. Bush -- the current president's father -- is an adviser to the firm. McKinney said the war on terrorism has enriched Carlyle Group investors by enhancing the value of a military contractor partly owned by the firm.
Carlyle Group spokesman Chris Ullman asked: "Did she say these things while standing on a grassy knoll in Roswell, New Mexico?"
During her five terms in office, McKinney has often given voice to radical critiques of U.S. policy, especially in the Middle East. She defied the State Department to investigate assertions that international sanctions are brutalizing innocent Iraqis.
With her comments concerning Sept. 11, McKinney, 47, seems to have tapped into a web of conspiracy theories circulating during the past six months among people who believe that the government is partially -- or entirely -- to blame for last year's attacks, which killed more than 3,000 people.
"What is undeniable is that corporations close to the administration have directly benefited from the increased defense spending arising from the aftermath of September 11th," McKinney charged. "America's credibility, both with the world and with her own people, rests upon securing credible answers to these questions."
None of McKinney's colleagues has embraced her allegations, but a few said they are familiar with the theories.
"I've heard a number of people say it," said Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), who quickly added, "I can't say that it would be a widely held view" among lawmakers.
Some lawmakers have a less charitable view of McKinney's penchant for publicity. Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said McKinney is simply trying to impress her constituents.
"She's demonstrated at home an ability to win," he said, "and she's demonstrated in Washington a total lack of responsibility in her statements."
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a friend of McKinney's, said the Georgia Democrat is adept at seizing on "red-meat" issues that resonate with her political base and have helped her fend off a series of GOP challengers.
"She's not as random as people think," Kingston said. "People always want to hear a political conspiracy theory."
Staff writer David Von Drehle contributed to this report.