WASHINGTON - Members of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks warned the White House yesterday that it could face a politically damaging subpoena this week if it refuses to turn over information from the highly classified Oval Office intelligence reports that were provided to President Bush before the attacks in New York and Washington.
The panel chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, said through a spokesman that he was hopeful that a deal would be worked out with the White House before the commission's next meeting, which is today. Commission officials said negotiations continued throughout the day yesterday and into the evening with the office of Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel.
Other members of the commission said that without an immediate resolution, they would call for a vote today on a subpoena to the White House for access to information in the documents, known as the President's Daily Brief, the intelligence summary prepared each morning for Bush by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Responding to earlier threats of a subpoena, the White House agreed last year to allow three members of the 10-member commission and the panel's Republican staff director to review portions of the President's Daily Brief from before the Sept. 11 attacks that referred to intelligence warnings about al-Qaida and its plans for terrorist attacks.
The commission has described the briefing reports as vital to the panel's work, because they would show whether the White House had advance warnings of a catastrophic terrorist attack. The White House has acknowledged that at least one intelligence briefing seen by Bush in August 2001 referred to the possibility of an al-Qaida terrorist strike using commercial airplanes.
In recent weeks, however, the White House has refused to give permission for the four members of the delegation to share their handwritten and computerized notes - which are retained by the White House under the agreement - with the full commission, a move that has outraged Democrats and Republicans on the panel and prompted the renewed threat of a subpoena.