9/11 panel won't accept White House limits

Board rejects conditions on Bush, Cheney talks

March 03, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is refusing to accept strict conditions set by the White House for the panel's interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and is renewing its request for Bush's national security adviser to testify in public, commission members said.

The panel members, interviewed after a private meeting yesterday, said the commission had decided for now to reject a White House request that the interview with Bush be limited to one hour, with the questioners limited to the panel's chairman and vice chairman.

They said the commission had also decided to continue to press Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to reconsider her refusal to testify at a public hearing.

Bush and Cheney are expected to be asked about how they reacted to intelligence reports received before the Sept. 11 attacks suggesting that al-Qaida might be planning a large attack, and panel members want to ask Rice the same questions in public.

Tim Roemer, a former House member from Indiana who is one of the Democrats on the 10-member commission, noted that former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore have agreed to meet privately with all 10 members of the bipartisan panel, and that Samuel R. Berger, Rice's predecessor, would be testifying in public.

"It's very important that we treat both the Bush and the Clinton administrations the same," he said.

The White House has declined to discuss details of the limits it wants to place on the interviews of Bush and Cheney but has insisted that the administration wants to cooperate fully.

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