The Joint Inquiry was composed of select members (the leaders) of the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence. They did an investigation into the intelligence community’s actions and so on related to 9/11. Their final report was rushed into approval and raised many more questions than it answered. For one: why did the intelligence agencies delay or deny access to the JI to documents and people that it wanted to see as part of its investigation? Was the White House behind this coordinated effort to delay or deny this access to people and documents? (Yes, probably. Who else?! Don’t tell me that al Qaeda did that.)
It was in 2002, and it was a very limited investigation into only the roles of the U.S. intelligence agencies in the attacks of 9/11. In other words what they did and failed to do. It was done by the Chair and Ranking Member of the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence. It was called the Joint Inquiry.
The #1 defense offered by Congress is that the U.S. government has already investigated 9/11. Therefore a new investigation is not needed. Write a letter to your Congressman or Senator and the chances are close to 100% that that will be the gist of their reply. It’s true that the U.S. government has done so, several times. The first of these was by the Joint Inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. It was actually run by the Big Four; the Chair and Ranking Member on each Committee.
The first problem was the scope. The Joint Inquiry looked only at the actions and inactions of the U.S. intelligence agencies and did not look at anything else. President Bush and Vice President Cheney called Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle before the Joint Inquiry began its work and demanded that the Joint Inquiry limit its scope. Daschle complied.
The Joint Inquiry’s final report, available on line, includes an appendix entitled, “Access Limitations Encountered by the Joint Inquiry”. Here we find that every intelligence agency that the JI worked with obstructed its investigation in significant ways, mainly by denying and / or delaying access.
The following quotes are taken directly from that appendix, pages 835-841 and 858 of the JI final report:
Joint Inquiry of the Congressional Intelligence Committees, 2002
Appendix on “Access Limitations Encountered by the Joint Inquiry”
“While the major agencies in the Inquiry – CIA, FBI and NSA – provided substantial support and allowed access to large volumes of information, there were certain areas in which no access was allowed, and others where access was achieved only after extensive discussions and delays or under conditions that limited the scope of the Inquiry’s work.”
“The President’s Daily Brief (PDB): the White House determined, and the DCI and CIA agreed, that the Joint Inquiry could have no access to the contents of the PDB.”
“The DCI refused to allow the Joint Inquiry to have access to a series of reports that had been prepared within CTC regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the CIA’s liaison relationships with a variety of foreign governments.”
“. . . the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the White House
prevented the agencies from sharing information regarding budget requests . . ..”
“The NSC denied the Joint Inquiry access to documents, thereby limiting its ability to inquire into this area (covert action).”
“Access to most information that involved NSC-level discussions was blocked, however, by the White House. . . . The Inquiry also was denied access to, or a briefing concerning, the findings and conclusions of the report of the National Security Presidential Directive-5 Commission on Intelligence Reform chaired by Lt.Gen. Brent Scowcroft.”
Interview of the DCI:
” The Joint Inquiry attempted to schedule an interview of DCI George Tenet . . . .” “Ultimately, the DCI testified at length in closed and open sessions before the Joint Inquiry and the interview was denied on that basis.”
Interview of FBI Informant:
“The FBI, supported by the Attorney General and the Administration, refused to make the informant available for an interview or to serve a Congressional deposition notice and subpoena on the informant, whose whereabouts were known to the FBI at the time.”
NSA Technical and Contractual Information: Despite numerous requests for specific planning and other documents and briefings, NSA provided very limited responsive information in this area.
CIA and NSA Documents: CIA took the position that . . . documents it deemed to be sensitive could be subject to Joint Inquiry review at CIA Headquarters, but that no copies could be brought to the Joint Inquiry’s office. NSA adopted a similar position . . . almost all other materials.”
Foreign Government Information at the FBI: The FBI “. . . would not allow the documents or verbatim notes to be carried to the Inquiry’s offices.”
The Joint Inquiry had to sue the U.S. Department of Justice in federal court to seek access to documents from the Moussaoui case.
The Intelligence Community agencies: “Finally, the agencies would not provide the Inquiry with electronic access to information, but insisted on providing paper copies of all information.”
“As I have explained, the Central Intelligence Agency continues to deny Joint Inquiry Staff (JIS) access to a broad range of documents and information related to covert action . . . .”
(Joint Inquiry Staff letter to George Bush and National Security Council, August 12, 2002, page 858 of JI report)
More about the limitations of this investigation are found in the other appendices, especially “Additional Views of Members of the Joint Inquiry”.