9/11 panel distrusted Pentagon testimony
Commissioners considered criminal probe of false statements

SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/08/02/9-11panel.pentagon/index.html
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A member of the 9/11 commission said Wednesday that panel members so distrusted testimony from Pentagon officials that they referred their concerns to the Pentagon's inspector general.

The panel even considered taking the matter to the Justice Department for a possible criminal probe, commission member Tim Roemer said.

"We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting," Roemer told CNN. "We were not sure of the intent, whether it was to deceive the commission or merely part of the fumbling bureaucracy."

The issues concerned Pentagon officials' testimony about the timeline of events on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four U.S. airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

The DOD inspector general's probe found mistakes and has since corrected the record but found "nothing in the course of their review that indicates testimony by DOD was knowingly false," a Pentagon spokesman said.

The Washington Post and Vanity Fair both published stories about the commission's debate, and ABC News on Tuesday aired excerpts of military audiotapes.

"For more than two years after the attacks, officials with NORAD [the North American Aerospace Defense Command] and the FAA provided inaccurate information about the response to the hijackings in testimony and media appearances," The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"Authorities suggested that U.S. air defenses had reacted quickly, that jets had been scrambled in response to the last two hijackings and that fighters were prepared to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 if it threatened Washington.

"In fact, the commission reported a year later, audiotapes from NORAD's Northeast headquarters and other evidence showed clearly that the military never had any of the hijacked airliners in its sights and at one point chased a phantom aircraft -- American Airlines Flight 11 -- long after it had crashed into the World Trade Center," according to The Washington Post.

CNN's Barbara Starr and Pam Benson contributed to this report.