“The 9/11 Commission Wants Internal Emails”

I found something rather interesting in Scooter Libby’s notes for July 8, 2003 (here’s the transcription of his chickenscratch). At the tail end of a conversation about the 9/11 Commission (which may have taken place at the White House’s Senior Staff Meeting that morning), and at the beginning of more obsessive notes about Joe Wilson [on how these notes work, see the update below], Libby wrote:

9/11 Commission wants internal e-mails, mark-up drafts of President’s speech, materials for President’s discussions with Blair, etc.

Now, I have no idea what they wanted internal emails pertaining to–though the reference to a Bush speech and discussions with Blair indicates it was a speech about war, most likely the September 20, 2001 speech announcing his response to the 9/11 attacks. Though, the Commission briefly reviewed the early (2001) discussions about hitting Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and Libby’s note appeared just one day before the Commission held a hearing on Al Qaeda’s relationship with other parts of the Arab world, including Iraq (Laura Mylroie even testified!).

But I find the mention interesting, given all the attention to the White House’s faulty email archiving system. Libby’s note presumably reflects discussions of the 9/11 Commission’s First Interim Report, released on the same day. In the report (and at the press conference accompanying it), Commission described the status of EOP’s document requests as follows:

First, the executive office of the president. The document requests have been filed with the executive office. Those documents cover every major part of the executive office of the presidency, including, of course, the National Security Council. We will not go into detail on the substance of these or other requests. We can say that we have received and are in the process of receiving access to a wide range of sensitive documents, and that to date no requested access has been denied. Many more documents are being requested. Conditions have been imposed, in some cases, with respect to our access to and usage of materials, and our discussions will continue.

Though the same interim report bragged that the Commission had received detainee interviews, and we know from Phillip Zelikow’s recent report on the CIA’s stonewalling regarding any tapes of detainee interrogations that as soon as June 2003, the CIA was withholding responsive materials.

The initial document request for interrogation material (DCI Document Request No. 4 filed on June 6, 2003) thus asked
broadly for “all TDs and other reports of intelligence information obtained from interrogations” of forty named individuals. Later supplements added requests for information gained from interrogations of seventy-eight other named persons. The initial request included both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rashim al Nashiri. Such requests went to the CIA, DOD, and the FBI.

Looking at the 9/11 Commission Report very quickly, I see a number of FBI emails cited, as well as CIA "cables," which may be emails. I see some NSC emails involving Sandy Berger and even Richard Clarke and Condi. For example, in Chapter 8, the report bases its claim that,

On June 25, Clarke warned Rice and Hadley that six separate intelligence reports showed al Qaeda personnel warning of a pending attack.

…on an email from Clarke to Condi and Hadley. So it’s clear the White House turned over some of its emails, even some damning ones, to the Commission. Did they turn it all over?

All of this is not to suggest that the White House deleted emails responsive to the 9/11 Commission. By all accounts, the archives are missing for periods starting in March 2003 (though the backup tapes were being scrubbed before that), long after most of the events studied by the Commission.

Still, I find it interesting that the White House was being publicly pressured to turn over some incriminating emails to the 9/11 Commission on precisely the same day when Libby would–apparently on the order of the Vice President–out a CIA spy. And just three days before Karl Rove would send an email–an email that pointed to Rove’s involvement in the further leak–which may have conveniently disappeared for over a year.

You’d have to imagine these guys would be thinking seriously about how damning their emails might be in the future.

Update: I’ve forgotten that few people have immersed themselves in how Libby takes notes and have assumed that everything on this page is related. It’s not. This is just the running summary of Libby’s notes for part of one day. So while it might make for good tinfoil, the reference to the emails has nothing to do with Turkish soldiers or Khodorkovsky or natural gas or, probably, the British Commission evaluating intelligence on Iraq leading up to the war.

39 replies
  1. klynn says:

    July 8, 2003 Here’s some more information which fits Scooter’s list:

    What Tony Blair had going on (ties into last item on Scooter’s list re: natural gas…)


    What NYT’s was reportinng


    What was Blair doing on July 8, 2003? Well their own “Dr Kelly outing”

    July 8: A meeting is held at No. 10, which Tebbit said was chaired by Blair, where it is agreed Kelly’s name will be confirmed to any journalist who puts it to the MoD.

    • The MoD releases press statement saying a “middle-ranking official” has come forward. In the statement, the official denies ever mentioning Campbell. This is accompanied by a detailed Q&A for press officers instructing them to confirm the name to any journalist who comes up with it.

    • BBC says the MoD’s description of official does not “match” Gilligan’s source.

    • Blair tells MPs it is “totally false” to suggest anyone inserted information into last September’s dossier against the wishes of intelligence agencies.

    You see a year earlier:

    September 24, 2002: Downing Street publishes its long-awaited 50-page dossier on Iraq’s weapons capabilities. It says Iraq can deploy a chemical or biological weapon within 45 minutes. It also says Saddam has sought to acquire “significant quantities” of uranium from Africa, despite having no civil nuclear program that could require it.


    May 29, 2003: During his report on the BBC Radio 4 Today program, Gilligan says a source — a senior British official — informed him that last September’s dossier on Iraq was “sexed up” to make a more convincing case for war.

    Just some tidbits to add to this picture. If you do not think Libby knew what was going on on the other side of the pond…

    These little news reports from that day just make his “task” list all the more interesting…The British…Commission is because of a combination of Joe Wilson (Libby did not finish what the combination is…my guess is Kelly).

  2. emptywheel says:


    The 9/11 commission was probably NOT looking at the Blair conversations contemporaneously. At the very outside, they were looking at the claims of AQ-Iraqi cooperation. But they weren’t going off on a goosechase into the Iraq war claims.

    Yes, the British military commission is likely Kelly. And yes that’s related to Iraq/ But the Blair reference on email is 9/11, not Iraq per se.

    These are Libby’s running notes form the day, not notes dedicated to a meeting about Blair.

  3. DieselDave09 says:

    No one, and I mean NO ONE has a right to the Unitary Executive’s communications. The Hatch Act may cover the president but it does not cover the Unitary Executive. Any and all communications between anyone in the Executive branch are not subject to any kind of oversight by congress or the courts. The Unitary Executive has absolute right to privacy according to article II of the old U.S. constitution(no longer applicable to this country by Unitary Executive decree number MMCCIIV). UE Bush is well within his God-given rights to refuse any and all requests for documents from congress or the courts. He was elected to be our Unitary Executive, not our gardener. We should trust him implicitly and give him the unrestricted latitude that the Unitary Executive has been anointed with. God is the only master of our Unitary Executive and with His guidence, this country will continue to prosper and help other countries prosper as in Iraq. Our victory there can only underscore God’s support of our Unitary Executive, George W. Bush.

      • DieselDave09 says:

        Not really. I’m just glad that congress has finally acknowledged the absolute power of the Unitary Executive. Now they can get on with passing the telecomm immunity FISA bill. Oh, that’s right, they don’t have to anymore. The Unitary Executive has already granted them immunity from all prosecution for past of future crimes. Thank God for George W. Bush.

  4. pdaly says:

    PJEvans, I agree. Maybe he’s the next Jonathan (A Modest Proposal) Swift.

    And I should correct myself. DieselDave left different words with CHS’s post this afternoon. It just the tone that is the same.

  5. Rayne says:

    Of all missives in which the subject of internal emails should appear — blurb about Turks, British Mil Commission. AQ Khan, Khodorovsky?


    Makes one wonder what odd combinations of info appear in the “lost” emails…

    • emptywheel says:


      See my note to klynn.

      The comment on the email is completely unrelated to the Khodorkovsky note. (The AQ Khan reference is actually a reference to Joe Wilson.)

      • Rayne says:

        I’d noted and understood the comment to klynn. Doesn’t mean there won’t be substantive co-mingling of info in the emails that will make it very difficult for the OVP to give up any of them, even with heavy-handed redaction.

        The doc dumped emails re: USA’s, for example, are rather an oddity as emails go, in that they were uniformly about a single topic. Don’t you think it would be doubtful that the OVP’s emails were all so focused, with few exceptions in topic?

        • emptywheel says:


          Honestly, I see absolutely no reason why a request for emails relating to specific subjects leading up to 9/11 would have a bunch of other content related to it. Nor do I understand why the WH wouldn’t–as they did with the plame investigation–sort through what was responsive and what wasn’t, eliminating all the unrelated stuff. And nor do I understand why they couldn’t redact the lmited, non-related but privileged material related to anything else.

          And most of all, I see no reason to suspect that events that happened two years after the emails in question (July 2001 to July 2003) would in any way show up in emails two years before they happened.

          • Rayne says:

            What if it’s all interrelated, though, EW? As Edmonds has said, it’s all interconnected. (I don’t set store by all she says, but I have to keep some things in mind, and that one point sticks.)

            They may actually have a hard time distinguishing what is and isn’t responsive, even with somebody as extremely anal retentive as Addington as gatekeeper; it could explain why swaths of email were “disappeared” rather than one or two pieces here or there, because the risk of any one of them with more than a very tightly compartmentalized bit of info could break up a matrix of criminal behavior.

            The USAs scandal is a much simpler story, by comparison, a smaller number of players involved, smaller issues; there was some redaction but not much as the folks involved were fairly concentrated. We’ve got DOJ, WH and folks in each state. Relatively simple, if widespread.

            OVP, though, was working on a much broader range of subjects, likely a much broader range of scandals originating in that shop. I’ll give the devil his due and admit he’s more capable of the complexity that came with the deals he was swinging, versus the WH. One page of notes reflecting the interrelationship between Pakistan, CIA and DoS, Britain and Iraq and possibly more, all in one fell swoop. It would have been imperative to remove entire days of email, not onesy-twosey emails. (This complexity alone would have been enough reason, if I were a criminal of Cheney’s ilk, for me to seek a parallel secret approach to communications; it’s just too damned hard to protect an entire system of criminality).

            Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending what’s happened. They need to produce emails. But this could be the reason why they will fight tooth and nail ANY production (not even wanting to use state secrets to limit production) and why there were such widespread “failures” in backup/archiving.

            • emptywheel says:

              Uh, I don’t buy it. Just because of Libby’s unique note-taking style, and claims about Edmonds far beyond those she has made, you’re changing the way people write emails.

              Even Libby, when he writes a note TO some effect, addresses one topic.

              • Rayne says:

                So everybody who worked in OVP…or across entire the EOP network…only wrote about one topic on every single email? Everybody who was a key person in this administration only wrote about one topic in all their emails, even in reply to others?

                I’m skeptical. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this issue.

                • emptywheel says:

                  That’s not what you originally asserted. You suggested it was such a problem that WH couldn’t face having any of their email turned over, in spite of the fact taht they HAVE SINCE!

                  There are lots of nefarious reasons why they might want to get rid of email. I just don’t see that the comingling of topics would be at the top–or even close to the top–of their list.

                  • Rayne says:

                    They have produced emails, EW, but how much of it was the singular one-of topic stuff versus the stuff where they may have co-mingled topics?

  6. maryo2 says:


    From the Plame Timeline –
    Late 2001 (roughly between July and October):
    The Italian government reportedly obtains half a dozen letters and other documents from a source in Rome alleged to be correspondence between Niger and Iraqi officials negotiating a sale of 500 tons of uranium oxide. The Italians share the intelligence with their counterparts in both Britain and the US.

    Could it be that in the President’s discussions with Blair before September 20, 2001, the Niger forgeries were discussed? Did GW and Tony talk about how they would both cover for each other regarding the validity of the uranium purchase?

    Was the 9-11 Commission getting into territory that says the only people who got the intelligence wrong about WMDs in Iraq were GW and Dick Cheney? And the two conspired to LIE?

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s not clear they withheld the emails!! Nor is it clear they would have been hiding anything beyond the Administration’s refusal to take Al Qaeda seriously.

      All Im saying with this post is that the ON THE SAME DAY that Libby was leaking Plame’s identity, the Administration was also havign discussions about whether they shoudl turn over email relating to PAST, UNRELATED, POSSIBLY INNOCUOUS events.

  7. JodiDog says:

    I think the important thing here is that future administrations of Government and Business will think long and hard on “emails” and what they should say, as well as the mechanisms that are used for them.

    Likewise notes will tend back to the handwritten, non archived, and be disposed of by the writer as their usefulness fades.

    The thing that really caught my eye, though was a request for marked up drafts.

    Now we are going into real thought control?

    We not only want to know what you said but what you thought about saying!

    But now we can see the Genius that is Cheney. He didn’t use email, and we laughed at him. (He is laughing now.)

    • cinnamonape says:

      Jodi, Jodi, Jodi…you do realize that ascertaining INTENT is an important element in determining whether someone has committed a crime, do you not, That’s hardly thought control. If someone acts with intent (a state of mind) you can have the very critical difference between murder and an accidental death.

      It’s the distinction between unintentional neglect and criminal intent.

      The whole issue as to whether the individuals in the Plame case had an intent to reveal her identity maliciously is what prevented prosecution under the Intelligence Agents Identity Protection Act.

      • JodiDog says:

        You seem to make a statement that is correct about “intent” but try to somehow slide it over to counter my “marked drafts” statement.

        That just doesn’t wash very well.

        We are talking about a published document’s evolution through conception, editing, re-editing and so forth.

        As for Plame, there were several questions about whether or not she qualified under the IAIPA.

  8. klynn says:


    I was trying to point out that on the same day that Libby was leaking Plame’s identity Blair leaked Kelly’s identity…It’s just odd partners in Iraq would take similar moves on people who supplied information in contradiction to US-British ME policy at the time, on the same day… What to do with the “odd similarity” I do not know. No doubt, “odd” it is…

    Sorry to go off topic.

    • emptywheel says:

      Sorry, I misunderstood then.

      I absolutely agree that the Wilson/Kelly responses are very parallel, if not tied (which is why it’s so creepy that Judy was one of the last people Kelly spoke with). And don’t forget that Blair came to the US for a VERY last minute visit on July 17, right after Plame’s outing and during Kelly’s death. Also don’t forget that the Brits were party to the WH pushback during leak week too. So it’s pretty clear there was at least some high-level coordination going on there.

      • klynn says:

        Yes. You summarize all the points clearly. These points have honestly been why I was questioning the parallels of the email issues (secret email and deleted emails) for both Bush/Cheney and Blair.

        O/T Just curious on your perspective wrt one of the items on the list however…The Navy VS Egan Addington reference…maybe bmaz will get in on this…

        If I recall in section III of the decision there is a whole section of the courts view on the Executive role on authority to classify and control access to information:

        The President, after all, is the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” U.S. Const., Art. II, 2. His authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security and to determine whether an individual is sufficiently trustworthy to occupy a position in the Executive Branch that will give that person access to such information flows primarily from this constitutional investment of power in the President and exists quite apart from any explicit congressional grant. See Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, 890 (1961). This Court has recognized the Government’s “compelling interest” in withholding national security information from unauthorized persons in the course of executive business. Snepp v. United States, 444 U.S. 507, 509 , n. 3 (1980). See also United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258, 267 (1967); United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1, 10 (1953); Totten v. United States, 92 U.S. 105, 106 (1876). The authority to protect such information falls on the President as head of the Executive Branch and as Commander in Chief.

        Just another interesting bit in his day that just happens to relate to controlling access to information in regards to national security…

        • emptywheel says:

          You understand what that reference is? It’s a reference to Libby’s questioning of Addington before he leaked to Miller. So it is very literally, the legal justification Libby took for the leak he was about to make.

          • klynn says:

            Yes, I guess what I was asking is, “Is it also the legal justification used irt email for the 911 Commission and everything else Cheney touched?

            • emptywheel says:

              Well, it was Addington’s justification. Cheney’s legal justification since then involves Pixie Dust–the claim that EO 13292 treats him like the President.

              But remember–we don’t know whether they invoked such secrecy wrt the 9/11 Commission.

    • chetnolian says:

      I don’t think there was a connection.You had to be here in the UK to understand how dynamic the situation was over Kelly.The PM’s office was only a short distance ahead of the media.No chance to pre-plan. We are only a little country.

  9. MadDog says:

    The Case of the Missing White House Emails has a familiar cast to it:

    Thomas S. Blanton

    In November 1986, President Reagan and Attorney General Meese came to the White House press room to announce they had just fired the president’s national security adviser John Poindexter and were sending a staffer named Oliver North back to the Marine Corps, because the two had conspired to sell arms to Iran and use the profits to support the contras in Nicaragua. The White House Communications Agency (known as WOCKA) could have simply conducted business as usual: every Saturday they backed-up the entire White House computer system onto computer tapes—all the e-mail, etc,—and every third Saturday they recycled the oldest tapes, overwriting them with new data. But that week, the WOCKA commander Lt. Col. Patrick McGovern stopped the recycling program for the month.

    Thinking there might be investigations that would need the information, he set aside all the backup tapes for November 1986, and when investigators came calling, they found out the details of what Poindexter and North had been up to and that they had done almost everything on orders from the president…

    …As two of the most prolific e-mailers in the entire government, North and Poindexter had a lot to hide. Over the weekend before they were fired, Oliver North deleted—he had to do it one at a time—750 out of 758 electronic messages saved in his “user area” of the White House system
    memory. He believed that they were gone for good. John Poindexter knew about the WOCKA backup process, but he thought he was still covered because of the recycling of the tapes. Poindexter also deleted (again, one at a time) 5,012 out of his 5,062 messages that weekend, and believed that the backup versions would be automatically erased within a few weeks. He was wrong because WOCKA did the right thing. The Iran/Contra-related e- mail was set aside and sent off to investigators, where it provided the core evidence for the whole scandal.

    In January 1989, as Reagan was about to leave office, his staff were packing boxes and shipping documents off to the archives. One of the National Security Archive researchers, Eddie Becker, was curious about how the National Archives (NARA) was going to preserve all the other White House e-mail. To his enormous surprise, NARA officials told him they did not consider the White House e-mail to qualify as “records” worthy of preservation…

    …This news set off a storm in our offices. The archive’s founder and then-director Scott Armstrong was a veteran of the Senate Watergate committee staff and The Washington Post; the parallels were not hard for any of the rest of us to grasp, either. Here was a potential “gap” consisting of years—millions of messages—much more than Nixon’s mere eighteen- and-a-half minutes of tape.

    After a fruitless meeting with top NARA officials on Wednesday, January 18 (less than thirty hours before the “destruction deadline”), we decided to go to court for an injunction. A frenzied night of preparation followed: we pulled together every piece of information ever published about the White House e-mail system, researched the requirements of the federal records preservation laws, drafted legal papers and affidavits, and designed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests for the entire set of tapes—anything that would stop the destruction.

    The judge on call the next day at U.S. District Court, the late Barrington
    D. Parker, called our hearing to order at 5:15 p.m. We expected an
    assistant U.S. attorney to represent the government but, to our surprise,
    in walked the Acting Attorney General of the United States, John Bolton.

    We knew we had won when Bolton said the White House staff were “just taking the pictures off their walls,” and Judge Parker replied, “They are not seeking a restraining order against taking pictures off the wall.”

    Bolton could only claim that “[If the plaintiffs prevail] it would be as if the halls of the White House were filled with furniture from the outgoing administration.” Judge Parker ordered the White House to save the backup tapes. For us, that was the whole case. Once historic material was in the National Archives, no judge would order it destroyed.

    For the entire duration of the first Bush administration, the government never came up with an argument to destroy the e-mail beyond John Bolton’s weak reasoning before Judge Parker. In January 1993, Judge Charles Richey ruled that e-mail, including the Bush White House tapes as well, had to be treated like all other government records.

    Apparently, the Bush White House staff panicked at this point. Out of arrogance or disdain, they had made no plans to save the tapes, and they dreaded the idea of the new Clinton staff pawing through the system. So on Inauguration Eve 1993, January 19, they staged a midnight ride to round up the computer tapes and put them beyond the law. On White House orders, a task force of NARA employees hurriedly rented vans, raced to the Old Executive Office Building, hand-scribbled makeshift inventories, and worked through the night to load thousands of computer tapes into cardboard boxes and haul them away. A subsequent memo from this group complained that due to haste and the lack of bubblewrap, a number of tapes were simply stacked in boxes with no padding. Several of the tapes were damaged irreparably. The whole process violated NARA’s own procedures for taking custody of electronic information.

    Several weeks later, through discovery, we found out that the midnight ride was a sideshow to the main event: a secret deal between President Bush and the Archivist of the United States, Don W. Wilson. Signed in the last few hours before Bill Clinton’s inauguration, the agreement
    purported to give Bush control over all the computer tapes, ignoring
    the Presidential Records Act of 1978 that precludes such a claim.

    Judge Richey’s January 1993 ruling already held that Wilson had abdicated his duties as archivist by approving the original decision to destroy the Reagan White House e-mail. Under fire for the secret deal and for management problems during his tenure at NARA, Wilson then resigned as archivist and accepted a new job as head of the planned George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University…

    Archives not only preserve history, they also serve our present democracy. Openness has meant, for example, that no president has taped his conversations since the release of the Nixon tapes. This is a loss for history but a gain for accountability. We no longer have “plumbers” operating out of the White House. Today, their tactic is to leak a CIA official’s name, but not to break into her psychiatrist’s files…

    • phred says:

      Late to this thread MadDog, but just wanted to compliment you on the fine homework you’ve been doing lately. I love how the same names keep cropping up over and over again from the Nixon-Reagan-Bush 1 eras to the present reign of King W. Looking forward to whatever you may find next…

  10. Rayne says:

    Oh, now THAT is a very nice find, MadDog! Do you know publication date of that bit? I couldn’t see it on the PDF (and I have to run and chase a kid, sorry).

    • MadDog says:

      Oh, now THAT is a very nice find, MadDog! Do you know publication date of that bit? I couldn’t see it on the PDF…

      I can’t seem to find a publication date either, but I did find in one of the footnotes the following: “All web sites accessed February 28, 2007.”

      Based on that, it sure sounds like the document is less than a year old.

      • Rayne says:

        They knew about it all, they already knew damned well about the hazards of email. They learned it all at the breasts of three previous Republican administrations.

        Bet you when we find the date of publication, it’ll coincide with an event that triggered this little brain dump by Blanton. No wonder at all that National Security Archives has been all over this with CREW; Blanton knows exactly what the OVP has been doing with EOP network based on previous experience.

  11. Mauimom says:

    Marcy, slightly OT, but have you had any recent weed-contemplating, either yourself or from the IT experts, on where else Waxman et al. might look for “copies” of these e-mails? As I recall, back during the Libby Days, there was lots of commenting re servers, etc. that couldn’t be scrubbed.

    I hope Waxman et al. have some experts on this and don’t take the “dog ate my homework” excuse the WH is putting forth.

  12. Rayne says:

    And no, co-mingled topics would not at the top of the reasons why they would get rid of email — but it’s one of the key reasons why there’d be swaths of emails taken out, rather than a helter-skelter pattern.

    Why are we not seeing the use of distribution lists more often, for example, in the emails that have been produced? Look at the Addington list of exclusion terms — how many are distribution lists? People reply to distribution-sent emails, but they don’t always reply in the manner the originator intended. Much easier to simply kill off all distlist emails, particularly if there was heavy chatter on a distlist inside a given time frame.

  13. mamayaga says:

    …on an email from Clarke to Condi and Hadley. So it’s clear the White House turned over some of its emails, even some damning ones, to the Commission.

    Was Clarke still working at the WH at the time this was turned over? Wikipedia says he quit in 2003. Possibly the WH turned that one over because the Commission had already seen it…

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