NY Times
November 7, 2003

9/11 Panel May Reject Offer of Limited Access to Briefings

By PHILIP SHENON

 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 ó The White House has offered to provide a federal commission with limited access to Oval Office intelligence reports regarding the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but some members of the panel have described the offer as inadequate and are renewing the threat of a subpoena, commission officials said on Thursday.

They said the issue of a subpoena would be discussed on Friday, and possibly decided, at a meeting of the 10-member panel, which was created by Congress last year to investigate intelligence and law-enforcement failures before the attacks.

It will be the first formal meeting of the panel since its chairman issued a warning last month that he was prepared to subpoena the highly classified documents if the White House did not make them available.

Panel members are trying to obtain copies of the daily Oval Office intelligence report that President Bush received in the weeks before Sept. 11, 2001. The report is known as the President's Daily Brief and is distributed to Mr. Bush and a handful of his top aides every morning.

Officials said the White House, under pressure of the subpoena threat, offered over the last week to make copies of the intelligence briefing available to the commission's Republican chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, and Democratic vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a former House member from Indiana.

Commission officials said at least three other members of the panel believed that the White House offer was inadequate and planned to press on Friday for the commission to consider subpoenaing the White House for the documents.

The official said the commission would also weigh subpoenas on Friday against the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency for information that has so far been withheld from the panel.

A Democratic member of the panel, Jamie S. Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, said in an interview on Thursday that she believed the panel was in an "endgame" with the White House over access to the Oval Office documents.

Ms. Gorelick would not describe the negotiations between the commission and the White House but said the panel was determined to have access to all White House intelligence reports that might relate to the attacks.

"It's absolutely critical to our inquiry," she said, "and we are amenable to reasonable conditions."

Ms. Gorelick said White House efforts to withhold the documents were a "mistake."

"It makes people think that there's something really nefarious in those documents," she said.

The possibility of a subpoena was raised last month by Mr. Kean when he said publicly that the commission needed access to all intelligence reports that related to the attacks, including the most highly classified intelligence reports that reached President Bush in the Oval Office.

The White House has repeatedly said it wants to cooperate fully with the commission, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said on Thursday, "We continue to work closely and cooperatively with the commission to make sure they have the information they need to do their job."

 
NY Times
November 7, 2003

At Ground Zero Oasis, a Path Is Restored

By DAVID W. DUNLAP

 

For the first time in memory, you can get to the chapel by way of Church.

The western gates to St. Paul's Chapel on Church Street, which had been padlocked for no one knows how long, were reopened this week. So was the churchyard itself, which had been closed since Sept. 11, 2001.

Suddenly, there is a contemplative public space ó brand new but 237 years old ó on the edge of ground zero. The open gates allow visitors to approach the chapel as they would have in the 18th century, across a lawn dotted with headstones, through trees so tall they almost obscure the wooden steeple.

"The world doesn't expect anything like this to exist right in the middle of New York City," said the Rev. Dr. Daniel Paul Matthews, rector of Trinity Church, to which St. Paul's is attached. Yesterday was his first journey through the Church Street gates in 16 years as rector.

He stopped to study the jagged stump of a sycamore tree that was blown over when the World Trade Center collapsed and may have offered the first line of defense for the chapel, which survived intact. The tree is to be replaced this month with a 20-foot Norway spruce that Trinity will call the Tree of Hope.

This has been a week of rebirth around the trade center site.

Engine Company 10 and Ladder Company 10 returned to their quarters at 124 Liberty Street, which were damaged in the attack. Plywood barriers came down from the doors that connected the E train platform to the World Trade Center concourse, revealing an original travertine-clad column and a dust-covered sign, "PATH Trains to New Jersey."

And at St. Paul's, some 500 people crossed the churchyard on Monday after the gates opened, said Linda Hanick, director of special projects at Trinity. The gates will stay open every day from 10 a.m. to dusk.

St. Paul's was the setting in 1789 of a service of thanksgiving after Washington's inauguration as president.

In 2001, after the attack, it cared for the workers at ground zero, offering hot food, dry socks, ponchos, shovels, aspirin, lip balm, chiropractic care, massage therapy, pews to sleep on and an oasis from the havoc outside.

Though it seems to face Broadway, the chapel was actually built to overlook the Hudson River, then only two blocks away. It rose in a field that had been planted with wheat earlier in the same year its foundations were laid.

By the early 19th century, New York's center of gravity had shifted to Broadway, and St. Paul's front lawn gradually became its backyard.

No one at Trinity can recall when the Church Street entrance was closed or why, though Dr. Matthews has a theory. "Probably the powers that be, namely the janitor, didn't want to walk all the way down here to open the gate," he said. Once those gates were closed, visitors could enter the yard only through the chapel. After the attack, they could not enter at all.

The reopening came in response to requests from visitors to an exhibition at St. Paul's, "Out of the Dust: A Year of Ministry at Ground Zero." They would look out the chapel doors and see the yard beyond, just out of reach.

"We're hungry for sacramental expression," Dr. Matthews said. "St. Paul's has become a symbol, whether we wanted it to be or not. There's nothing symbolic you can identify with across the street except a big iron fence."

But the very first visitor was not on a spiritual journey. He told Ms. Hanick his name was Tom, that he worked for the Bank of New York at 1 Wall Street and that he was running late. The churchyard, it turned out, was a convenient new shortcut.