The government's final report on the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks isn't due for another five months, but the man in charge says there already are some revelations.
"I think that there are materials that we've found that will change some of the story that the public now knows about 9/11, in some important ways," Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the 10-member National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, told ABCNEWS' Nightline in an interview airing tonight.
In an interview broadcast by CBS News on Wednesday night, Kean said the report would give "a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done. I mean, this was not something that had to happen." He said he believed there were people who should have lost their jobs for failures that allowed the attacks to happen.
In his interview for Nightline today, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, suggested the commission would not assign blame to senior officials in either of the last two administrations.
"We have no evidence that anybody high in the Clinton administration or high in the Bush administration did anything wrong," he told Nightline's Chris Bury.
However, he said that could change as the panel wraps up its work. "A lot of the conclusions which we will reach having to do with higher officials are going to be reached when we've finished with our job, not now …. It's too early at this point for me or anybody else to say these are the conclusions," he said.
No Rush to Judgment
While the commission's goal is not to point fingers, Kean said those who were to blame were "not necessarily the top people in government."
He said his conclusions are not based on new information. "The evidence I'm talking about is the evidence we've all had for a long time," he said.
Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg earlier told ABCNEWS if the panel was to put out a serious and specific finding, it would hold a press conference. "We're going to avoid a rush to judgment," he said.
Recently, the commission reached an agreement with the White House and obtained access to the classified intelligence briefings President Bush received prior to 9/11.
But Kean refused to comment specifically on what was in them, saying that revealing anything might be breaking the law.
At All Levels
Families of those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks want answers, and the commission is under pressure to deliver. Its 65 staff members have been wading through at least two million pages of documents.
"We've done over 600 interviews; we'll do at least 600 more," said Kean. Among those that they've spoken to are Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, FBI Director Robert Muller, Attorney General John Ashcroft and CIA Director George Tenet.
The commission even hopes to interview former President Clinton and President Bush.
To learn more about what the 9/11 commission has found so far, ABCNEWS is providing an edited transcript of Kean's interview with Nightline:
ABCNEWS' CHRIS BURY: Have you been satisfied with the cooperation your investigation has gotten from the Bush administration?
THOMAS H. KEAN: We've gotten a tremendous amount of cooperation from the White House and from a number of the other agencies. We haven't got everything that we've asked for up to this point, but we've got a lot of it. And the standard we set are very, very — are very, very high. What I've said and what my fellow commissioners have said is we've got to see every single piece of paper which has anything to do with the issue of 9/11 or terrorism or airplanes or what have you. And we have — as I said, we've got over 2 million documents now. And we are seeing, by the way, documents that nobody else has ever seen, including congressional committees.
BURY: One of those presidential daily briefings which you just cited came from August 2001, the month before 9/11. And in it, according to widespread reporting, the secretary or the head of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, advised the president that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were still interested in mounting a very serious terrorist threat against the U.S. Were you able to get anything more specific from that particular briefing?
KEAN: Well, if I were to comment on that particular briefing or any other briefing, I would be, honestly, at this point be violating the law. Because that is a — those presidential daily briefings are the most highly classified documents that the government has. And while we've got the classification and the ability to read them, unfortunately — or fortunately — I haven't got the ability to talk about them on this program or any other way. We will use them, however, to inform our report and to make our recommendations.
BURY: What about the commission's full report? Are you going to make every word in that report public?
KEAN: We're going to make every report that we can public. Both Lee Hamilton, the vice chair, and I and practically all 10 commissioners want to make every word we can public and available to the American people so that it can be as widely read as possible. Not only the report, of course, but just as importantly, our recommendations. Now, there are some materials that we are able to read that are highly classified, and we cannot make those materials public. But they'll be made — they'll be made available in separate documents which those who have classification — members of Congress and so on — will be able to read. But the report itself, we're going to do our very best to make that available to every single American who wants to read it.
BURY: In the many months that you have been sifting through these millions of documents and hearing all this testimony, what is the single most striking thing to you personally?
KEAN: There are some, some very striking things. Some of them I think it would be improper to talk about at this time because we're not fully finished with them yet.