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Defense Department Supports 9/11 Commission

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2003 – The Defense Department has given the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, about 38,000 pages of information, a senior defense official said here Oct. 31.

"We are under explicit direction from the secretary Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to cooperate with the commission and get them what they ask for," he added.

About 20 people oversee what is being done with the commission on a day-to-day basis toward this commitment. "There's about another 58 from different components who try to scare up the documents and vet them and record them and catalog them and prepare them for transport," said the official. The Justice Department also reviews the information to ensure concerns about executive privilege are being met, he said.

"By the time you get done counting all the noses who have been involved in this in one fashion or another, you've got probably about 130 people who have been involved," he said. The Defense Department has spent "something on the order of" 8,000 manhours helping the commission since the first part of May, he added.

The challenge, said the official, is to marry the requests to the proper office. "We're not always sure that we know what they're looking for," he explained. "And as they learn more from the documents you deliver to them, they come back and ask for additional material based on what they think they've learned. So we are now in that process of sort of a second round of requests to see if we can't fill in some of the holes."

The bipartisan commission was created in late 2002. It's chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The commission also is mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks. The report is due May 27.

When the commission released its initial report in July, it "was not exactly happy" with the turnaround time of material from the Defense Department, noted the official. However, by the end of July, the commission said their experience had "improved remarkably," he added.

"They have a deadline they're working against," he said. "There's an awful low of material to get through, and so they're anxious to get documents in a timely fashion. I can appreciate that."

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