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9/11 Commission Shield

Ex-9/11 Panel Chief Denies Secret White House Ties

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by Justin Rood
Jan. 30, 2008—

The former executive director of the 9/11 Commission denies explosive charges
of undisclosed ties to the Bush White House or interference with the panel’s
report.

The charges are said to be contained in New York Times reporter Philip Shenon’s
unreleased book, "The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation,"
according to Max Holland, an author and blogger, and generally confirmed by
the book’s publisher. Although the book is not slated to hit stores until early
next month, Holland says he bought a copy of the audio version at a bookstore.
(Attempts to purchase the book, in any format, at the Barnes & Noble across
the street from ABC News headquarters were unsuccessful.)

9/11 Commission co-chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton hired former Condoleezza
Rice aide Philip Zelikow to be executive director, Zelikow failed to tell them
about his role helping Rice set up President George W. Bush’s National Security
Council in early 2001  and that he was "instrumental" in demoting
Richard Clarke, the onetime White House counterterrorism czar who was fixated
on the threat from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, according to Holland’s version
of Shenon’s tome.

"[Zelikow] had laid the groundwork for much of what went wrong at the
White House in the weeks and months before September 11. Would he want people
to know that?" Shenon writes, according to Holland.

Zelikow denied that was the case. "It was very well-known I had served
on this transition team and had declined to go into the administration. I worked
there for a total of one month. I had interviewed Sandy Berger, Dick Clarke
and most of the NSC staff." He noted he recused himself from working on
the section of the panel’s report addressing the NSC transition, and that other
staffers had held conflicting positions in the Clinton administration.

In his book, Shenon also says that while working for the panel, Zelikow appears
to have had private conversations with former White House political director
Karl Rove, despite a ban on such communication, according to Holland. Shenon
reports that Zelikow later ordered his assistant to stop keeping a log of his
calls, although the commission’s general counsel overruled him, Holland wrote.

Zelikow told ABC News he was under no prohibition that barred his conversations
with Rove, and did not recall asking his assistant to stop logging his calls,
although he did speak to her about leaving phone messages in a publicly visible
place. "Two other people took my calls as well, and neither have a recollection"
of Zelikow asking for calls not to be logged, he said. Further, Zelikow said
9/11 Commission general counsel Daniel Marcus did not raise the matter with
Zelikow at the time.

Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Marcus declined to confirm or deny the
events.

Zelikow flatly denied discussing the commission’s work with Rove. "I never
discussed the 9/11 Commission with him, not at all. Period."

What’s more, the idea of Zelikow and Rove conspiring over the commission’s
work was unrealistic, the ex-director indicated. "I was not a very popular
person in the Bush White House when this was going on. There’s a lot of carryover
of that to this day."

Holland reports that Shenon discovered some panel staffers believed Zelikow
stopped them from submitting a report depicting Rice’s performance as "amount[ing]
to incompetence, or something not far from it."

"I don’t think that staffers will bear that out," Zelikow said. Out
of 85 staffers, half a dozen were disgruntled, Zelikow told ABC News. "Under
the circumstances, that was a pretty low fraction," he said. "But
they all talked to Shenon."

Halfway into the panel’s operation, Zelikow told his bosses under oath of the
once-hidden ties, Holland’s blog says Shenon’s book reports. Upon hearing the
details, Shenon writes, Marcus concluded Zelikow "never should have been
hired," according to Holland.

"That’s not right," Marcus said when told of the account. "That’s
certainly not true."

Shenon directed calls to his publisher, Twelve Books, a subsidiary of Hachette
Book Group.

Cary Goldstein, a spokesman for Hachette, confirmed the blog’s characterization
of the book’s contents, but said he could not confirm direct quotes.

"It’s not a surprise," Goldstein said when asked his reaction to
the leak of the book’s details before its Feb. 5 publication date. "I think
people are really curious to see what the report had looked like if it hadn’t
been neutered in [the panel's] effort to be unanimous."

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