9-11 Panel Book Tour

The Hill9-11 panel to go on book tour

The Sept. 11 commission continues to exasperate House Republicans, who said they learned yesterday that the panel̢۪s chairmen will barnstorm the country promoting the report, which will be privately published in paperback, and that the commission chose not to analyze the effectiveness of the USA Patriot Act.

“We authorized the commission. The report should have gone right to [the Government Printing Office (GPO)] and gotten it to Congress [instead] of this dog-and-pony show,†Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told The Hill. “They’re acting on their own volition; that’s what they want to do.â€
A senior GOP lawmaker said he is frustrated that the “report won’t be available to give to Congress but will be available at bookstores.â€


But the spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, Al Felzenberg, told The Hill that the panel allowed W.W. Norton to print 500,000 soft-cover copies, which will sell for $10 apiece. Norton bears all of the financial risk, and neither members of the Sept. 11 panel nor the commission will receive royalties. The panel picked Norton because it had the ability to release the book quickly and the panel liked the aesthetics and durability of the paper. The GPO will release the report and post it on the Internet.

Felzenberg added: “Lots of publishers are printing without our knowledge because the copyright is owned by the people,†said Felzenberg, adding PublicAffairs, a publishing house in New York City, excerpted the commission’s first 12 staff reports in book form. The Starr Report and Warren Report were released in a similar fashion.

I know it was going to bookstores but presumed it was a GPO publication. The Commission was funded by taxpayer dollars. What’s it doing going on sale with a Specific private publisher and around Congress? The book is in the public domain, so Norton has every right to publish it. But they shouldn’t have been given an exclusive on it.

Update: Baltimore SunPublic may buy copies of 9/11 report at stores today

The concurrent release was an idea put forward by Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey governor, who argued that the public should have the same access as government officials. More than 500,000 copies of the report — some estimates are as high as 700,000 — have been printed.

Norton said it could not disclose details of how it printed and distributed the paperback before today’s government publication. “I’m pledged to secrecy,” said W. Drake McFeely, the president and chairman of Norton, which describes itself as the nation’s largest independent, employee-owned book publishing firm.

When Kean announced in May that Norton would publish the report, he said he wanted “the public to read the commission’s findings, evaluate its recommendations and engage in a dialogue on how to improve our nation’s security.” Commission members were initially skeptical of Kean’s idea of same-day publication, fearing security breaches. But they came around to it after he stressed the need for the public to have immediate access.


Other reports have been printed in paperback over the years, but never in this fashion — an extraordinarily large printing done by a private company and delivered on the same day it was presented to Congress.

The commission received no advance payment from Norton and would receive no royalties.
Norton came under some scrutiny in May after an article in The New York Times suggested that it got the contract because of a long-standing relationship with the Sept. 11 commission’s executive director, Philip D. Zelikow. Zelikow is also director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and he has written or edited a number of books published by Norton.

Interesting. If this was announced in May, then Hastert certainly had time to intervene if he was concerned. Still, this is an odd arrangement.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.