Thursday, October 13, 2011

More on The Commission

I have been reading The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon and posted on it the other day.

The book is interesting in its illumination of the problems of this kind of journalism. People have different recollections of what happened and people color their accounts of what happened according to the impressions that they wish to make and leave.

The book indicates that there were very strong feelings, many negative, among the members of the Commission and among the Commission staff members about each other. This is perhaps not surprising among people with the kinds of careers and accomplishments that lead to appointment to such a body, and of course may have been amplified by Shenon's narrative style and reportorial needs. Still, the description of distrusts and dislikes suggests both caution in accepting the statements quoted in the book and concern for the objectivity of this often conflicted team of investigators.

One think comes through loud and clear. The Commission had a very hard time getting the information that it should have gotten easily. The White House Council, Alberto Gonzales, is pictured as refusing access to documents, the FAA as failing to supply records until forced to do so by subpeona, the military as failing to provide information from the air defense command, and Shenon suggests that key witnesses before the committee were either deliberately misleading the Commission or woefully lacking in the knowledge and understanding that their duties required them to have.

If you think that the people of this country deserved a report that would make as clear as possible what had happened and why, if you think that the political process that created the Commission was designed to get such a report -- a report that contained actionable recommendations on how to improve the situation -- or if you think that the functionaries of the government cooperated with the Commission fully to give it the information needed to produce such a report, then this is a book you need to read!

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