Interview with R. Ben-Veniste, Commissioner
of INN Interview with Richard Ben-Veniste by
April 24, 2003 :
Interview with Richard Ben-Veniste,
National Commissioner on 9/11
INN TV via sanderhicks.com
Interview -- Comments by Richard Ben-Veniste,
member of the National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks, original interview date: March 31,
in the studio today we have Mr. Richard Ben-Veniste.
He served with distinction at the Watergate
Special Prosecutors Office from 1973 to
1975. He has also served as a federal prosecutor
in NewYork. He was the boss of young Rudolph
Giuliana. And today he is a major Washington
attorney with Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw in
D.C. Welcome Mr. Ben-Veniste.
Ben-Veniste: Thank you for inviting me.
Well, its really quite an honor to have
an actual member of the National Commission
here on INN Report. Weve been following
with interest the development of the National
Commission. My first question that I wanted
to talk to you about how you view what seems
to be a somewhat antagonistic relationship between
the White House and people who question 9/11.
Im speaking specifically about the controversy
about funding, you mentioned in your introductory
remarks about the lack of security clearances
for the Commission and lets go back a
couple of months ago. You remember that there
was some talk in the media about how Tom Daschle
had been called by Bush and Cheney and somewhat
threatened on the phone about not letting the
Joint Inquiry in Congress look in too closely
at 9/11. What are your thoughts?
Well, our statute provides us with authority
to conduct a very broad inquiry basically to
provide an investigation of 9/11 thats
thorough, complete and will withstand the scrutiny
of history. And I feel confident that we have
the kind of people on our Commission and our
staff who are capable of doing that. Now, I
have no comment on what you mentioned earlier
about the controversy. Its clear that
the Joint Inquiry which did an astonishingly
good job in the time they had, was not afforded
all the information they sought. Our mandate
expects that we will build on the Joint Inquirys
investigation and we will not be re-inventing
the wheel. But we go to places which the Joint
Inquiry was not permitted to explore. So thats
one of the basic tenets of what we are doing.
What are those areas that the Joint Inquiry
that Congress was not allowed to explore?
They made certain requests for interviews of
members of the White House and the National
Security Council and they didnt get all
the information that they sought.
I dont know if you are able to comment
but there has been a lot of talk about
not in mainstream media but in independent media
about the relationship between the Bush
family and the Saudis. Lets say George
Herbert Walker Bushs membership on the
Board of Directors of the Carlyle Group. Or
the fact that in 1978 young W. Bush received
money through James Bath, who it turned out
was working for the Saudis. His name was Salem
bin Laden. Are you familiar with this information
I dont have any comment on that.
America has such a bad history with these kinds
of special investigations. We have these major
historical events that are then investigated.
Former Governor Kean yesterday made reference
to two precedents: the Warren Commission Report
on the assassination of JFK and the Roberts
Commission Report on the Pearl Harbor attack.
And he admitted that the results of both those
Commissions were inadequate and did not satisfy
the majority of the people. So, if you prefer
not to talk about specifics of the Bush-Bin
Laden connection, then lets talk about
the specifics of a broader historical inquiry.
How can the National Commission on 9/11 be different
from the Warren Report?
I think the better analogy is the Roberts Commission
which was created, almost immediately, after
the attack at Pearl Harbor. And the short comings
of that Commissions report were documented.
There were several subsequent inquiries. And
it turned out that the Roberts Commission did
not fully utilize the information available
and that it came to conclusions which were I
think quite short sighted and, indeed, in some
cases, scapegoated individuals.
We saw a panel come before the Commission of
5 people who had first-hand injury experience
in 9/11. And they told stories that were traumatic
and emotional. But they emphasized that they
had no anger, were not going to point fingers.
But then we had victims family members
on the next panel. And these people were, I
felt, like had a whole different level of knowledge
and inquiry and were asking some very hard questions
about the lack of aviation response from the
military on 9/11. And, you know, there are people
out there who are asking hard questions. And
I thought that was somewhat represented on Monday
by the lunchtime press conference with 9/11
Citizens Watch. I wanted to ask you if you had
reviewed any of the materials on them or have
you seen any ...
I was eating lunch at lunchtime. And we had,
I think, twenty minutes. The family members
represent a broad spectrum of personal reaction
to the horrific losses that they have suffered.
And they have been a constant source to us,
not only of motivation, but they have provided
very useful insights and information. And we
are honored to work with them and to keep a
very close relationship with the family members.
What are some of the questions that the family
members are asking that you feel are valid?
They are asking a number of questions about
how it happened, that things which we had in
Try to like, off the top of your head, what
were some emotional, knowledgable, rational
reactions that you had - like "wow, thats
a good question. That really bugs me, too."
Well, the forms that were filled out by the
hijackers to get into this country, that were
obviously inadequate. Those are actually State
Department forms for visas which provided inadequate
information. The real issues that I think were
highlighted in the hearings by family members
who had many questions which we will address.
Hopefully, we will provide answers, at least
by statements from those who were responsible
at the time, for why our country could not connect
the dots, did not operate as our system is designed
to operation. And that will inform the suggestions
that we make for making our system better.
Lets go back for a second and talk about
what you just said about the INS forms of the
terrorist hijackers. How there just seems to
be a disconnect. How could these people
it was pointed out that a couple of these people
were on the CIAs list of terrorists, they
had attended the terrorism conference and yet
they were allowed to be in country. There was
a gentleman you may know of, named Daniel Hopsicker?
Hes a former producer of NBC and he wrote
a book called, "Barry and the Boys."
You are mentioned in it. Its about a former
client of yours who is now deceased, Mr. Barry
Seal. Are you familiar with this book?
No, I havent read the book but I did represent
Barry Seal, who was convicted. He thereafter,
on his own, became a government informant. He
worked against the Sandinistas and that certainly
is not the subject of this....
Thats not the subject of ....
We have quite a bit to do here in our Commission
without going into all my private practice.
I certainly wouldnt want this to be an
infomercial for Richard Ben-Veniste as a private
Not at all. But the question was, Daniel Hopsicker
So, if you wouldnt mind staying on our
Not at all.
Id appreciate it.
He did this interesting research on the web,
that you can get, about the flight school in
Florida, about the and the connections
between CIA and Rudi Dekker, the Dutch National,
who ran that flight school. Im wondering
if the Commission plans to investigate that?
I think you are going right for the capillary,
if I may say so.
You mean the jugular?
No, I mean the capillary.
You mean the find detail?
I mean the things that are, the detail that
is certainly not central to us getting started
here. So, we are in the inception stages. We
are getting started. Our inquiry is on its way.
These are part of the questions which the families
are asking, citizens watch
I dont think anybody asked any questions
about Mr. Hopsicker, whoever he may be.
No the question is really about Rudi Dekker
and about hes a Dutch National.
Mohamed Atta was at his flight school doing
cocaine with his girl friend. If Mohamed Atta
is technically a fundamentalist Muslim, what
is he doing cocaine and going to strip bars
with Rudi Dekkers girlfriend?
You know, thats a heck of a question.
(Laughter) It sure is. Right. Well then we agree
on that. Maybe then well just sort of
wrap it up at this point if youd rather.
I know you have a plane to catch.
And I appreciate you being on the program.
And thank you very much.
Thank you, INN Report reporting.