Part 2: Interview With Thomas Kean

Thomas Kean, as former New Jersey Governor, and head of new independent commission investigating September 11th terrorist attacks

Q: when you look at mandate vs. emotional investment of families, balance?

I don't think any of us, unless you are one of them, can understand the impact on these families

I can't tell you what they're feeling,

Our job as a commission is to take a hard look

Q: families relying on commission for answers

We're all they have. — I mean, there is not another body in the United States government that's looking into this anymore.

they went through the whole congressional process and came out saying we still haven't had our questions answered. We still don't know what happened. We were then appointed, and we probably would not have been appointed, had it not been for the persistence of number of those family members. So they're counting on us to answer a number of those questions for them.

It's not gonna give them a sense of closure, I don't think anything will give them a sense of closure, but I think it will at least the satisfaction of having some of those questions they have answered, and in addition, the feeling that perhaps through our work, that other families are not going to have to go through the same thing

Q: — process — considerable resistance on part of WH — look at an entity that comes into existence without support, you're behind eight ball?

Well, I know we're not the most popular people in Washington. I mean there are some members of congress who support us very strongly, but there are probably members of congress who wish we never came into existence

Q: Why wouldn't people want the answers? — TK-I think the idea of having independent citizens commission really poking its nose into everything is not what Washington likes. Washington is really a very insular town, they like the bodies that are in place**

we're the new people on the block, we're demanding to see everything that other people have never had a chance to see. We're saying, we don't care what the precedents are, let us see that, we don't care nobody has ever seen that. Our mission is unique, our mission is different, I believe that. That's what were demanding, that's what we're saying. It doesn't make us popular. — And I don't care if it doesn't make us popular, frankly *** (Those are fighting words!)

want to know what my dream is? We're gonna be reporting at the end of May. The two great political parties are having their conventions shortly after that. — My dream is that we make meaningful recommendations and those recommendations become a large part of those two parties' platforms. Because if they do, then we'll really be able to get some action, and we won't be a commission that just sits on the shelf

we'll be a commission that made meaningful recommendations that have changed the way this country operates, and made its people safer.

Q: politics- time constraint...

I think the vast majority of people would like us to report on time and believe we ought to report on time

there'sa danger in going closer to the conventions that somehow our work will be politicized, and that is a terrible danger. If we become known as partisan, either Republican or Democratic, people are going to take our work less seriously.

and even if we try to go past the election, Washington is a very leaky place. And a danger of parts of the report leaking out of political context would also hurt our work very badly.

so there's good reason for trying to get our report done on time if we can.

Q: if done in time, still find way into political process?

we can't do anything about that. What we've got to do is report with integrity and — hopefully with five republicans and five democrats voting unanimously as a commission on our recommendations and presenting them to the American people.

What the political process does with it after that is out of my control.

My hope is that we are going to be out there, though, as members of the commission.

All of us have been in public life, all the members of the commission, and so we know how to take something out to the public, and my hope is,

if these recommendations are supported by all us, that is as five republicans and five democrats, we'll be out there nationally, supporting these recommendations, trying to get them adopted.

Q: Where were you 9/11?

September 11th I was here. I was home when it happened because I was late getting started. Had some dental work done, came to Univ, sent out messages, knew students distraught, asked students to meet in gym, talked, sang, prayer, devastating

Q: had you thought answers would be learned sooner?

A: Yes. Um, Yes, it's always disturbing when a major event passes and there are still major questions unanswered

and my hope would be, by this time the questions would be answered, but they haven't been.

My hope is that if we're talking a year from now those questions will have been answered

Q: Somebody needs to get in and get this done

Of course, the immediate feeling I had was shock, and the second feeling you — have if you're in the area I'm in is the personal people you've lost.

overwhelming emotion, speaking at funerals of friends

Q: Have you had a direct conversation with the president? TK-I had a direct conversation with the president when I was appointed.

That was the only one. Other than that, the WH has designated Judge Gonzales, who is the WH counsel, to negotiate on documents on all that

Q: — What did the president say?

He said first of all that he was grateful I was willing to take it on, that he thought it was a very important responsibility, he said, he said there were still unanswered questions that he hoped we would pursue, and that he and the WH would be helpful in any way they could be

Q: He pledged cooperation. — TK- Yes he did. RP-Which didn't quite come as fast as you needed it. —

A: Well, it did in a way, number of things we needed,top security clearance, done in a — little over a month

the president sent — a memo by his chief of staff andy card asking them to cooperate with us

we've had some prlems on some issues, but overall I think the cooperation has been good.

Q: Knew Bushes

A: I know the president well, I know the past president well, so, actually I know the past president better, Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton and I became close friends when we were governors and remain close friends.

and I am a friend of this president's father. I know — this president, but not as well as I knew his father.

Q: four widows -- — helpful or thorn in your side.

A: Well, they've been helpful. They've been helpful in a number of ways. They've gotten us materials we've needed, they've asked questions that needed to be asked, — they monitor us every second of — the day.***

Q: Are they helpful, or?

A: Well, they don't agree with everything we do,and say so very publicly when they do, and that's not bad either.

You know, I've been a public official. Somebody who cares about what you're doing and — wants the same thing as you do as far — as result goes, but says I'm not sure you're going in the right direction, I think it's helpful not harmful.

so I recognize first of all what they've been through. — Secondly, that they've devoted their lives to making sure we get some answers and get the kind of report they want. And thirdly, we're gonna work with them to the best of our ability.

they call very often on the phone and they're at every meeting, and we're becoming friends.

Q: interview fbi agents in minn, az, not sure, think so

Q: Iif you decide you have to talk to current or former preseident, when will decision be made?

My suspicion is around March, because

We're gonna have some very high profile hearings starting in January. And we're going to be starting to talk to some of the very highest people in both the Bush and the Clinton administrations. And out of those hearings, and out of the public and private testimony we get.. we will determine whether we need more and whether or not we in fact have to talk to one of the two presidents, or both.

Q: How has your inability to hold hearing affected work? Added a couple, public hearings take an enormous amount of staff time time taken away from the report, recognize importance of public hearings, — have a number of them,

everybody from the national security advisors hopefully of — both presidents to the people who headed agencies under both presidents,

Q: FBI directors?

A: Absolutely. — FAA people, NORAD people, generals, both head of the CIA, FBI , cabinet members who were — important, Sandy Berger from the Clinton Administration is vital, Clark, who under two presidents was in charge of terrorism preparation, all of these people we're going to be asking to testify not only in private, but in public, because we think that's an important part of our job.***

and by the way, some of the things I couldn't talk about today, some of those things that we've found will be coming out in those public hearings.

Q: January? —

A: January, February, March.

Q: You were chief exec of a state, based on what you've learned to date, do you think someone or some ones should have been fired?

that's always a difficult question.. there are obviously people who made major mistakes, —

there are people that certainly if I was doing the job who — would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time (chuckle) uh, because they failed. They simply failed.**

and it's not simply the people gathering the information, but the people who got the information and determined not to do anything with it.

Q: No one has suffered career consequences?

A: That is the families' concern or one of them. They believe that there were people who have made major mistakes and none of them have faced the consequences for making those mistakes. We're looking into that.

Q: Part of your recommendations? —

A: I doubt if we'll get into specific information on individuals, but um, obiviously as you read our report, some of it may be devastating, for certain actions that were taken or not taken

Q: Today we don't know if people sitting in the decision making spots on that critical day are still in those positions. —

A: That's correct.

Q: Shouldn't we at least know whether.

A: Yes, the answer is yes. And we will.****

my view is that this is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right

A: Our report should be it, our report should be the authorative source,** and the second job, — and to me equally important is the recommendations. Whether our recommendations make sense, are done with integrity, are done in a bipartisan manner, and are things that are practical and — can be adopted, and that our country is going to be better off afterwards.

this is something that our chidren, our grandchildren, and generations beyond, when they want to find out about 9/11, this is going to be our legacy. This is going to be our legacy to them.

this was a terrible event that happened in our country, this is the story of it, this is how our country dealt with it