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Another Piece of the 9/11 Puzzle


Reporter Philip Shenon was assigned to cover the 9/11 Commission by The New York Times, which put him in a unique position to write a book that details the inner workings of that investigative body. It has been published as The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission (Twelve Books).

It’s a necessary addition to the 9/11 canon. The book got a lot of pre-publication press when a couple of the more provocative allegations – phone calls between the commission’s executive director Philip Zelikow and then White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove that alarmed Zelikow’s staff — were leaked to help build interest.

Zelikow is the central figure in Shenon’s account, and Shenon does an exhaustive job of detailing the day-to-day workings of his role, but the Rove phone calls are a pretty inconsequential part of the book, with the weakest sourcing.

Zelikow comes under particular scrutiny because he had co-authored a book with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and was part of the Bush transition team. That many people within and outside the commission questioned Zelikow’s objectivity, especially with regard to Sec. Rice, is true. But though Zelikow made his staff and some commission members anxious, the book offers no proof that he influenced the final report. As the book makes clear, the decision not to point fingers at individuals came from the body’s two leaders, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, not Zelikow.

Shenon has a weblog and site that includes news about the book, information about the author and links to Zelikow’s arguments and notes. If you want to really understand the importance of the 9/11 Commission Report and why it was published the way it was, you won’t find a better source than The Commission.

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