Leaders of 9/11 Panel Say Attacks Were Probably Preventable
Leaders of 9/11 Panel Say Attacks Were Probably Preventable
Mon Apr 5 03:26:20 2004

Leaders of 9/11 Panel Say Attacks Were Probably Preventable

Published: April 5, 2004

WASHINGTON, April 4 — The leaders of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks agreed Sunday that evidence gathered by their panel showed the attacks could probably have been prevented.

Their remarks drew sharp disagreement from one of President Bush's closest political advisers, who insisted that the Bush and Clinton administrations had no opportunity to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot. They also offered a preview of the difficult questions likely to confront Condoleezza Rice when she testifies before the panel at a long-awaited public hearing this week.

In a joint television interview, the commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, and its vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic House member from Indiana, indicated that their final report this summer would find that the Sept. 11 attacks were preventable.

They also suggested that Ms. Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, would be questioned aggressively on Thursday about why the administration had not taken more action against Al Qaeda before Sept. 11, and about discrepancies between her public statements and those of Richard A. Clarke, the president's former counterterrorism chief, who has accused the administration of largely ignoring terrorist threats in 2001.

"The whole story might have been different," Mr. Kean said on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," outlining a series of intelligence and law enforcement blunders in the months and years before the attacks.

"There are so many threads and so many things, individual things, that happened," he said. "If we had been able to put those people on the watch list of the airlines, the two who were in the country; again, if we'd stopped some of these people at the borders; if we had acted earlier on Al Qaeda when Al Qaeda was smaller and just getting started."

Mr. Kean also cited the "lack of coordination within the F.B.I." and the bureau's failures to grapple with the implications of the August 2001 arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who was arrested while in flight school and was later linked to the terrorist cell that carried out the attacks.

Commission officials say current and former officials of the F.B.I., especially the former director Louis J. Freeh, and Attorney General John Ashcroft are expected to be harshly questioned by the 10-member panel at a hearing later this month about the Moussaoui case and other law enforcement failures before Sept. 11.

Mr. Hamilton, a former chairman of the House Intelligence and International Relations committees, said, "There are a lot of ifs; you can string together a whole bunch of ifs, and if things had broken right in all kinds of different ways, as the governor has identified, and frankly if you'd had a little luck, it probably could have been prevented." He said the panel would "make a final judgment on that, I believe, when the commission reports."

Mr. Kean has made similar remarks in the past, but commission officials said it appeared to be the first time Mr. Hamilton, the chief Democrat on the panel, had said publicly that he believed the attacks could have been prevented.

Mr. Kean and other members of the commission also agreed in interviews Sunday that the Bush administration's skepticism about the Clinton administration's national security policies might have led the Bush White House to pay too little attention to the threat of Al Qaeda.

Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Karen P. Hughes, one of Mr. Bush's closest political advisers and an important strategist for his re-election campaign, rejected the suggestion that the attacks could have been prevented.

"I just don't think, based on everything I know, and I was there, that there was anything that anyone in government could have done to have put together the pieces before the horror of that day," Ms. Hughes said. "If we could have in either administration, either in the eight years of the Clinton administration or the seven and a half months of the Bush administration, I'm convinced we would have done so."

Rice to Face Questions on Clarke
9/11 Panel to Look For Contradictions

By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 5, 2004; Page A02

The chairman of the national commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks outlined his strategy yesterday for questioning national security adviser Condoleezza Rice when she appears Thursday for public testimony.

Thomas H. Kean (R), the former governor of New Jersey, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the commission would probe Rice for any contradictions between her recollections of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy-making process and those of former National Security Council counterterrorism aide Richard A. Clarke.

Rice will be before the committee for 21/2 hours, "as long a session as we've had with any witness," Kean said.

"We expect it to be very exciting," he said, "because we want to know so much. . . . We want to know what she heard and what she knew, and of course what differences there may be between her, Mr. Clarke and a number of other people we've heard."

Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D), a former congressman from Indiana, denied suggestions that the committee might go easy on Rice because the commission's executive director, Philip D. Zelikow, is close to her.

Zelikow served on the National Security Council staff with Rice during the first Bush administration and later wrote a book with her. In recent media reports, some family members of Sept. 11 victims have said that could taint the commission's deliberations.

But Kean said that neither he nor Hamilton had found "any evidence to indicate in any way that he's partial to anybody or anything. In fact, he's been much tougher, I think, than a lot of people would have liked him to be."

Kean said that the commission and the White House are "planning" to have a final report available to the public by July, but he acknowledged in response to questions from Tim Russert that he could not guarantee an early release date. The White House will vet the report to protect intelligence sources and methods, a process that could become time-consuming.

"This is one of the big remaining obstacles, for us to get the report declassified," said Hamilton, also appearing on "Meet the Press."

Hamilton insisted, however, that "we're not going to let them distort our report."

Kean, Hamilton and other commission members who made the rounds of Sunday morning talk shows yesterday emphasized that the commission was united and determined to produce a report that would apportion blame equally among all of those who are responsible -- and would make all necessary policy recommendations.

Still, there was an echo of last week's partisan feuding over Clarke's testimony when former Navy secretary John F. Lehman, a Republican, and former senator Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who represented Nebraska, appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Lehman said Clarke was "not credible now, because he's chosen up political sides, and he's retelling history in the light of where we are in the campaign today and what sells his books, in my judgment."

But Kerrey said, "Nobody who knows Dick Clarke could say anything other than, this guy's a pile driver when it comes to terrorism. That's all he cared about morning, noon and nighttime, too."

2004 The Washington Post Company

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