Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bush, task force discuss 9/11 report

President may act on some ideas

By Angela K. Brown
The Associated Press

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush met Monday via videoconference with his task force reviewing the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations, and contemplates acting within days on some of them, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.

She would not say which of the more than 40 recommendations Bush was likely to adopt or if he would make his own proposals, and it was unclear if he will make any announcements on the matter this week as the Democratic National Convention is under way in Boston.

The president said he was reading the report and found it "interesting."

"It reads like a mystery, a novel. It's well written," Bush said just outside his home in Crawford. Asked what he was gleaning from the report, he said, "I'm gleaning that was a well-thought-out plot by the enemy."

"We've got work to do," he said, adding that the nation is "safe but not safe enough."

He declined to offer an opinion of the commission's recommendations, or when he would act.

"The president thinks that his most important obligation is to protect the American people ... and he will be governed by doing what's best and doing what's right and by acting as quickly as possible," Buchan said. "If there's something we can do to protect the American people, it isn't going to wait."

The White House is studying which of the panel's proposals would improve domestic security, which can be implemented by executive order and which require congressional approval.

White House chief of staff Andrew Card has been assigned to undertake a speedy high-level review of the proposals with Cabinet members and others.

The president has called for better coordination among intelligence agencies, increased collection of intelligence by humans and better technology to track enemies anywhere in the world.

When the Sept. 11 commission issued its report last week, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry endorsed all its recommendations.

A Kerry spokesman said Monday that action on the proposals must be taken quickly.

"We urgently need a comprehensive strategy to deal with terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, create a global coalition of nations working together and a real director of national intelligence who can lead the reform throughout the intelligence community," Phil Singer said. "Time is not on our side."

The commission report recommended a sweeping overhaul of the nation's intelligence community. Congress adjourned for its summer recess Friday, a day after the report's release.

Congressional leaders pledged to hold August hearings in the House and Senate on two of the main recommendations: to create a position of director of national intelligence and a national counterterrorism center.

The commission cited multiple failures that contributed to the 2001 hijackings and concluded that the government was unprepared and uncomprehending of imminent danger posed by al-Qaida.

Although the report did not fault Bush or former President Clinton, it said neither had made anti-terror a top priority before Sept. 11, 2001. The report culminated a 20-month investigation by the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats.

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