Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Mark Follman of Salon's "War Room" got a sneak peek at next month's Vanity Fair, which contains a report alleging that Dick Cheney -- who, as Vice President, has no military authority whatsoever -- may have given the order to shoot down hijacked civilian aircraft without consulting the Commander-in-Chief:
"Some members of the 9/11 commission and its staff are convinced that Cheney acted on his own -- before receiving the president's approval -- which would mean he broke the chain of command and, by exceeding his constitutional powers, acted unlawfully," the story says. "The final report of the 9/11 commission stops just short of saying that the conversation with the president before Cheney gave the order never happened ... the report goes as far as to say 'there is no documentary evidence for this call ...' Only after Cheney twice issued a shootdown order is there clear evidence that he called Bush and received authorization to order fighter jets to shoot down hijacked aircraft."

As one commission member told Vanity Fair on condition of anonymity, the panel was concerned about how to handle the politically explosive issue: "We purposely did not reach a conclusion. We just laid it out. Some people may read what we wrote and conclude the authorization call had not preceded the [shootdown] order. People can come to their own conclusion. We didn't want to be in the position of saying the president and the vice president were lying to us."

Bob Kerrey, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska and an outspoken member of the 9/11 commission, said: "We don't see that it happened the way he [Cheney] recalled it."

And one commissioner told the magazine (also anonymously) that the panel's members simply did not buy Cheney's account. "We tried to work out language that allows the reader to get that," he said, "without saying the vice president did not tell the truth."

Indeed, as the article further details, the bipartisan panel was forced to perform some linguistic acrobatics on the issue, after the White House applied intense pressure . . . .

[C]orroborating evidence of an earlier call to the president, the article adds, could not be found in two different sets of personal notes kept by Lynne Cheney and Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- both of whom accompanied the vice president in the secure bunker under the White House that morning -- nor in seven different phone logs kept by various White House operations, from the Secret Service to the White House Military Office.

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