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Philip Zelikow: Supporters cite more errors in Philip Shenon's book about the 9-11 Commission

In his account of the 9/11 Commission’s work, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, Philip Shenon claims that the Commission’s Executive Director, Philip Zelikow, pushed the staff to find a link between al Qaeda and Iraq, ostensibly to provide a justification for the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq. This is simply not the case.

First, Shenon cites as evidence Zelikow’s nomination of Laurie Mylroie as an expert witness at the Commission’s July 2003 public hearing on al Qaeda, Terrorism, and the Muslim World. Mylroie is an academic who has argued in various writings that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was linked to al Qaeda and even, perhaps, behind the 9/11 attacks. It was not Zelikow, however, who invited Mylroie to participate in the hearing. It was Doug MacEachin, a former intelligence official who led the Commission’s team investigating the history of al-Qaeda and was very familiar with the arguments Mylroie had been propagating. It was a fundamental operating principle of the Commission on all issues to consider a range of views – even those outside of the mainstream –and not pre-judge or avoid dissenting opinion. That was the rationale for Mylroie’s participation.

Second, Shenon argues that in March 2004, Zelikow tried to skew the Commission’s work by inserting into a draft staff statement references to intelligence disclosing al Qaeda contacts with Iraqi officials. It was not Zelikow, however, who surfaced such intelligence, but rather a member of staff doing document research at the CIA. This was sketchy initial information. It was addressed at an editing session in early March in which we all participated, and at which it was clear to us all that this information needed to be addressed by the Commission. The principal question was whether it should be included in our interim report at this time. After extended discussion, consensus emerged that a report on the U.S. Government’s diplomatic response to al Qaeda was not an appropriate place to address this issue, and that further research was needed to corroborate the intelligence and understand its context.

After further research into whether Iraq played a role in al Qaeda’s attack on the United States, the staff reported their analysis in June, 2004 in an interim report on intelligence on al Qaeda. The same analysis was reflected in the Commission’s Final Report (p. 66): “. . . to date we have seen no evidence that [the contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq] ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”

C. Michael Hurley
Senior Counsel and Team Leader

Douglas J. MacEachin
Professional Staff Member and Team Leader

Alexis K. Albion
Professional Staff Member

Scott H. Allan, Jr.

Related Links

  • Statement in Defense of Philip Zelikow
  • Philip Zelikow vs. Eric Alterman: The 9-11 Commission controversy
  • Max Holland: Review of Shenon book