WASHINGTON - The independent commission studying the Sept. 11 attacks has voted to subpoena the Federal Aviation Administration, ordering the agency to hand over documents for the investigation.
The 10-member commission said it learned through interviews that the agency had not turned over tapes, statements, reports and other documents "highly material to our inquiry."
The FAA, which earlier told the panel it provided everything, provided the latest material over the last few days and pledged to cooperate. But the commission said the delay "has significantly impeded the progress of our investigation and undermined our confidence in the completeness of the FAA's production."
The commission, comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans, voted to issue the subpoena Tuesday night after completing a public hearing on intelligence reforms.
"This disturbing development at one agency has led the commission to re-examine its general policy of relying on document requests rather than subpoenas," the panel said in a statement.
FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the agency has worked closely with the commission from the beginning.
"We've been cooperative, we've been responsive, and we'll continue to satisfy their requests in a timely manner," Martin said.
Other agencies should be on notice that they should consider requests for documents as seriously as they would a subpoena, the panel said.
A major topic for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States is airline security and what failings led to four airplanes being hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The panel's report is due May 27, 2004.
For the first time, the commission suggested that fights over documents might make it unable to meet that deadline and force it to ask Congress for more time.
On the Net:
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: http://www.9-11commission.gov
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press