Review: The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon (reviewed by Bill Hughes)

911 CommissionThe Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation
by Philip Shenon
465 pages
Publisher, Twelve, 2008 
(sold by the Hachette Book Group)
Kindle, $9.99

“A lie would make no sense, unless the truth were felt to be dangerous.” – Carl G. Jung

Philip Shenon’s insightful The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, is a book that I found hard to put down. An investigative reporter for The New York Times, Shenon gives a detailed history of the so-called “official” inquiry, authorized by the U.S. Congress, into the tragedy of September 11, 2001. One of the central characters in this compelling saga is a master manipulator, Philip D. Zelikow. He ran the Commission as its Executive Director.

The idea that this guy, who had close ties to Condi Rice, was interested in revealing the full truth about 9/11 seems preposterous. Why? Because, he had co-authored a book with Rice, worked on President Bush’s transition team in 2000/2001, and wrote a Neocon-like policy paper, which was used to justify the Iraq War.

Mr. Shenon underscored that in mostly every government commission, like the one for 9/11, it is the Executive Director, who is the key player in shaping the ultimate findings of that body. The author put it this way: “It is a polite fiction in Washington that the reports of blue-ribbon federal commissions are written by the commissioners themselves. In truth, most of the reports are written by a professional staff led by a full time director.”

Zelikow denied that he had any conflict of interest in accepting his czar-like role. This was so even after it was disclosed, that as the Executive Director, he made and received numerous telephone conversations from Karl Rove, “Bush’s Brain,” and that he had several visits with Rice, in the White House.

On another front, Zelikow supposedly had such an “abrasive” personality, that even Henry Kissinger himself was leery of him. According to the author: “Zeiklow…had…[an] outsize ego and fierce temper; his anger was a thing to behold, his face growing bright red, his well chosen insults flying in every direction.”

The Commission’s charter was to establish that the Bush-Cheney Gang’s “9/11 Mythology” was holy dogma (1). Any evidence, no matter how persuasive, showing a differing point of view was outside of the scope of its limited, narrowly focused inquiry. For example, the fact that a structural steel-framed skyscraper, WTC-7, a 47-story office building structure, collapsed in 6.5 seconds (free fall speed), even though it wasn’t struck by any jet airplane, did not rise to the level of suspicion for the 9/11 Commission (2).

Also, the highly suspicious conduct of those “Five Dancing Israelis,” over in New Jersey, who were caught joyfully taping the WTCs destruction, didn’t show up on its monitor either (3). Experts have submitted that there are many aspects of 9/11, with probative value, that the Commission chose not to investigate (4).

Prior to 9/11, the Bush-Cheney Gang was given several explicit warnings of an “imminent terrorist attack” inside the U.S. Take one: On July 12, 2001, Thomas Pickard, the acting director of the FBI, met with the then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft. Pickard told him: “We’re at a very high level of chatter that something ‘big’ is about to happen. The CIA is very alarmed…”

Ashcroft barked back at the veteran FBI man: “I don’t want to hear about that anymore. There is nothing I can do about that.” The author emphasized how the White House had also “done so little in response to [the CIA’s George] Tenet’s repeated warnings of an al-Qadea attack.” Which brings me to the proverbial “smoking gun,” the crux of the matter, the “Presidential Daily Briefing,” (PDB), of Aug. 6, 2001.

Keep in mind, that leading up to that critical period of time, i.e., just before 9/11, that it was Rice who was in charge of the powerful National Security Council (NSC). It was her primary duty to keep Bush informed about any possible terrorist attack in the U.S.

Enter Richard Clarke. He was an expert on counter-terrorism and an important member of the NSC team. He attempted in early 2001 to repeatedly warn the White House about al-Qaeda. Instead of listening to Clarke, however, the author pointed out: “Rice moved Clarke off center stage, in part at THE URGING OF ZELIKOW and the transition team.” In any event, the PDB of Aug. 6, 2001, prepared by the CIA, and based on its latest Intel, including Intel from the FBI, specifically warned Bush, V. P. Dick Cheney, Rice, among others, that the threat of a terrorist attack by al-Qaeda, in the U.S., was “CURRENT AND SERIOUS.” This crucial document was entitled: “BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN THE U.S.”

On Sept. 4, 2001, Clarke warned Rice yet again. Here is how he put it: “Are we serious about dealing with the Al Qaeda threat? Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future date when the CSG is not successful in stopping Al Qaeda attacks and hundreds of American lay dead in several countries, including the U.S. What would those decision makers wish they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time.”

On top of Clarke’s memo, the Commission revealed that “more than 40 PDBs presented to Bush from January 2001 through September 10, 2001, included references to bin Laden.”  Some of the family members of the 9/11 victims–the author called them, “the Jersey Girls”–regularly referred to Rice as: “Kinda-lies-a-lot” Rice!”

As an aside, also in Shenon’s book, Sen. John McCain was mentioned in a favorable light. He was one of the first members of the U.S. Congress to insist on an “independent” probe of 9/11. The author then reported how Sen. McCain “despised [President] Bush, and the people around him, especially [Karl] Rove,” He blamed the Bush-Cheney Gang for supposed “dirty tricks” that they pulled on him, during the 2000 presidential election. Now, if  Sen. McCain would only come clean about the cover-up of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, on June 8, 1967 (5).

Getting back to Clarke. When he heard on Jan. 27, 2003, that Rice’s crony, Zelikow was appointed as director for the Commission, he said: “THE FIX IS IN!” The author explained: “Clarke understood that with Zelikow–Zelikow of all people–in charge, there there was ‘no hope’ that the commission would carry out an ‘impartial’ investigation of the Bush’s administration’s bungling of terrorist threats in the months before September 11. Could anyone have a more obvious conflict of interest than Zelikow?”

To show Zelikow had his own agenda, he arranged for Abe Sofaer to testify at the Commission first public hearing on March 31, 2003, in NYC. The author wrote: “It seemed odd that he was the Commission’s very first expert witness. Sofaer had no special expertise on the events of 9/11. He appeared there, mostly, as an advocate for the American invasion of Iraq–the invasion had been launched a week earlier–and a champion of the [Neocon] concept of ‘preemptive defense’ or ‘preemptive war.’”

If Sofaer wasn’t off point enough, Zelikow followed up with another doozy of a witness at the Commission’s hearing, in July, 2003. It was Laurie Mylroie of the Neocon-infested “American Enterprise Institute.” The author said that Mylroie promoted the dubious idea that “Iraq and Al-Qaeda were effectively one.” Who do you think in the Bush-Cheney Gang was the biggest “booster” of Mylroie? If you answered the Neocon Paul Wolfowitz, a “key architect of the Iraqi invasion,” you would be right. Her book, Study for Revenge, was fulsomely praised by him. Mylroie also thanked another Neocon, Irv “Scooter” Libby, then V. P. Cheney’s top lag dog, for his help on her book. Libby was later convicted of perjury by a federal jury in the Valeri Plame/CIA-related matter (6).

As the 9/11 staff prepared its “interim” report for the Commission, Zelikow attempted to rewrite it to “link Al-Qaeda to Iraq.” Some of the staffers rebelled and Zelikow, despite being pushy, backed off. A few of the staffers considered him a “White House mole.” The Commission also refused to buy V.P. Cheney’s yarn of “an Iraqi link to 9/11.”

The bottom line is that 9/11 didn’t have to happen, no matter who really orchestrated the monstrous deed. The Commission’s Report basically found “no fault” as far as the Bush-Cheney Gang’s role in the tragedy was concerned (7). Its Report also helped to “reelect Bush as president.” The clever Zelikow, with his ties to the Neocon ideologues, got what he wanted, but the country didn’t. The full truth about 9/11 has yet to see the light of day.

Finally, Zelikow ended up with a government sinecure–Counselor to the U.S. Secretary of State–Condi Rice.


Bill Hughes is the author of “Baltimore Iconoclast.” It can be found at: 
Bill Hughes’ oldest brother, Richard P. Hughes, was the former national President of the I.L.A. Union, then located in Manhattan. On 9/11, he left his office to go to the scene of the WTC crash to see if he could help out. Richard later returned to his office covered in toxic debris from the fallout. He recently died from cancer of the lungs, even though he was a non-
smoker. This review is dedicated to his memory. 

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