Washington --- Revisiting the issue that helped spur her ouster from Congress three years ago, Rep. Cynthia McKinney led a Capitol Hill hearing Friday on whether the Bush administration was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The eight-hour hearing, timed to mark the first anniversary of the release of the Sept. 11 commission's report on the attacks, drew dozens of contrarians and conspiracy theorists who suggest President Bush purposely ignored warnings or may even have had a hand in the attack --- claims participants said the commission ignored.
"The commission's report was not a rush to judgment, it was a rush to exoneration," said John Judge, a member of McKinney's staff and a representative of a Web site dedicated to raising questions about the Sept. 11 commission's report.
The White House and the commission have dismissed such questions as unfounded conspiracy theories.
McKinney first raised questions about Bush's involvement shortly after the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, generating a furious response from fellow Democrats in Washington and voters in Georgia, who ousted her in 2002.
"What we are doing is asking the unanswered questions of the 9/11 families," McKinney, a DeKalb County Democrat who won back her seat in 2004, said during the proceedings.
She rebuffed a reporter's repeated attempts to ask her why she would so boldly embrace the same claims that led to her downfall.
"Congresswoman McKinney is viewed as a contrarian," panelist Melvin Goodman, a former CIA official, said. "And I hope someday her views will be considered conventional wisdom."
Though she left the testimony and questioning of panelists to others, McKinney was the main attraction, presiding over more than two dozen participants, including the author of a book that claims the U.S. government had advance knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack and allowed it to happen, and Peter Dale Scott, who wrote three books on President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Georgia peanuts, Cokes and coffee were available to more than 50 attendees, whose casual dress was a decided change from the gangs of blue-suited lobbyists who usually crowd Capitol Hill hearings.
McKinney herself offered witnesses bottled water and found additional trash cans to place around the room.
Nearly a dozen 9/11 enthusiasts lined one side of the room, camcorders at the ready, broadcasting the hearing live over the Internet or recording it for later release. C-SPAN cameras documented the hearing, and a DVD recording of the proceedings will soon be available.
Ten people sat in a section reserved for family members of 9/11 victims.
"Nine-eleven could have been prevented," said Marilyn Rosenthal, a University of Michigan professor who lost a son in the attacks, echoing the premise of the hearing.
Panelists maintained that Bush ignored numerous warnings from the CIA, the Federal Aviation Administration, foreign governments and others who told him before 9/11 that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the United States and that terrorists were likely to use hijacked airliners as weapons.
But why would the president or his administration want the 9/11 attacks to occur? Power, the panelists agreed.
In the wake of the attacks, the administration was able to greatly expand the president's power and the reach of the federal government, they said, but whistle-blowers and other potential witnesses who could have testified to the Sept. 11 commission about such things were either prevented from speaking or ignored in the commission's final report. Panelists called the commission's report "a cover-up."
"The American people have been seriously misled," said Scott.