Weighing the conditions for Condi

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 30, 2004 10:28PM (EST)

The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission, a nonpartisan group of relatives of 9/11 victims who have been a watchdog for the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, has issued a statement expressing its pleasure that Condoleezza Rice has finally agreed to testify under oath before the panel. The Family Steering Committee long called for Rice to testify under oath and in public, and called her failure to do so "inexcusable."

By giving sworn public testimony, the families hope Rice can help the commission finish its work with a report that is "more complete, comprehensive, and transparent in nature." But the family steering committee has one problem with the terms of the deal struck between the White House and the 9/11 commission: If Condi testifies, the commission will not ask for the testimony of any other White House official.

The steering committee's statement says: "Upon the signing of the 9/11 Commission into law, President Bush stated that the Commission's work was their most solemn duty. He also stated that the Commission must go wherever the facts may lead ... Consistent with Bush's statement upon the formation of the Commission, the FSC sincerely hopes that the commission will be given full and unfettered access to any officials in the White House whom they feel it is necessary to interview under oath. The above condition, which prohibits them from seeking further public testimony, is of particular concern because decisions made by those officials on the day of 9/11 are critically important to provide a full accounting to the American public."

"Nevertheless, the families are cautiously optimistic that Dr. Rice's public appearance before the Commission will enhance its ability to produce the kind of Final Report that the nation deserves."

The families make a good point here. Once Rice gives her testimony, the panel has eliminated the option of calling any other White House official to testify under oath to clarify, back up or contradict what she says. One commission member said today that the panel agreed to this condition because they weren't planning on calling anyone else anyway. Let's hope the commissioners calculated right and don't eventually regret the agreement they made today.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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