Tragicomic Tale of the 9/11 Report





Philip Shenon, a reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, set out to get behind the scenes of the 9/11 Commission. The inside story of a government commission doesn’t sound very promising; most commission reports wind up unread on dusty shelves....

In “The Commission [The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission]” he makes bureaucratic warfare exciting, largely because he has a keen grasp of human frailty and folly. He opens with a desperate, almost pathetic scene of Samuel R. Berger, President Bill Clinton’s national security adviser, sneaking documents out of the National Archives....

The black hat of Mr. Shenon’s story is the commission’s executive director, Philip Zelikow. Brilliant but abrasive and secretive, he is regarded by some commission staff members as a White House mole, compromised by his close ties to Condoleezza Rice, then President Bush’s national security adviser. The book’s portrait of Mr. Zelikow is harsh, but Mr. Shenon seems to have reached out to Mr. Zelikow to get both sides of the story. (Mr. Zelikow scoffs at charges of conflict and conspiracy made by Mr. Shenon’s sources.)


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