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9-11 Commission Welcomes Release Of Intelligence Memo By White House - 2004-04-12


Two members of the bipartisan commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States are welcoming the president's decision to declassify a document, issued a month before the attacks. It outlines intelligence regarding a possible strike inside the United States by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

The document, declassified and approved for release Saturday, is titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.."

Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the so-called 9-11 Commission investigating the attacks, told "Fox News Sunday" he believes the author of the document wanted to make clear to the president that terrorist attacks were possible in the United States.

He said, "So, that is an important new piece of information, and it has to be looked at in the context of the summer of threats. There was an incredible amount of threats being accumulated by our intelligence agencies, indicating that a spectacular attack was imminent."

Mr. Ben-Veniste says he is concerned that the two main U.S. intelligence agencies -- the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency -- were apparently not communicating with each other.

Although the declassified document, drafted a month before the September 11th, 2001, attacks, focused on possible terrorist activity within the United States, President Bush Sunday made clear U.S. intelligence at the time had no details of any specific attack.

"Had I known that there was going to be an attack on America, I would have moved mountains to stop the attack. I would have done everything I can. My job is to protect the American people," Mr. Bush said.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday, family members of victims of the attacks welcomed the release of the previously secret document.

Carie Lemack lost her mother.

"It's a little bit frightening, because it tells us that we do know now that (Osama) bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States. And for two-and-a-half years, we've been told that the Bush administration was focusing its efforts on attacks abroad. Now, we see that that focus was not the right one," she said.

Brad Blakeman, who lost his nephew, says he thinks the administration acted reasonably.

"The fact is, the United States receives thousands and thousands of threats every day, and yes, things probably could have been done a little better. But, overall, I am completely satisfied (with) the way this administration has acted -- prior to 9-11 and post-9-11," he said.

The release of the document Saturday comes days after National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testified publicly beforethe commission about the Bush administration's handling of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Her testimony followed allegations by former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, that the Bush administration did not make terrorism an urgent priority until after September 11th.

This week, current and former CIA and FBI leaders are among those testifying before the 9-11 commission.

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